How to get or renew a passport

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By David Em
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Even if you don’t have immediate plans to travel internationally, a passport is great to have. Learn how to get or renew one.

Selective focus on two hands holding passports.

Getting a passport

To get a passport, you must be a U.S. citizen. The application documents and process are different based on age and where you live.

If it’s your first passport, you must also apply in person. There are acceptance facilities in cities across the nation, and many are post offices.

You can also apply for a passport if you live outside of the U.S. The best thing to do is to contact your U.S. Embassy and Consulate because the process varies.

If you’re an adult applying within the United States, fill out Form DS-11, which is the U.S. passport application. Along with the application, you’ll need the following items:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (original and a copy).
  • Government-issued identification (original and a copy).
  • A clear photo of your face in color from the last 6 months.
  • Pay the application and acceptance fee.
    • The book is $110 for the application and $35 for the acceptance.
    • The card is $30 for the application and $35 for the acceptance.
    • You can get both for $140 for the application and $35 for the acceptance.

If you’re 16 or 17, you’ll need to bring your legal parent or guardian with you to show that they’re aware. Otherwise, you can provide a signed note, proof that they’re paying your application fees, or a notarized statement.

If you’re under 16 years old, you must apply for a passport in person with two parents or guardians.

If you’re the parent of someone under 16, you may be required to prove your parental relationship, which can include a birth certificate, adoption decree, or custody decree.

Renewing a passport

To renew, you must fill out Form DS-82, which is the renewal application.

It’s a bit more flexible, as you can do through the mail if you meet the following requirements:

  • Your passport is in your possession and ready to be submitted with your application.
  • It’s damaged.
  • Issued when you were age 16 or older.
  • Issued within the last 15 years.
  • Issued in your current name, or you have a certified copy of the legal name change document.

If you don’t meet the requirements, you must apply in person. Otherwise, you can mail in your application.

You can pay for the renewal with a personal check or money order. The passport book is $110, the card is $30, or you can renew both for $140.

It must be made payable to the “U.S. Department of State”. You’ll also need to include your full name and date of birth on the front.

How long does it take?

The standard timeframe to get your passport is 10 weeks. However, it’s possible to get it sooner if you request and pay for expedited service.

If you want to expedite your passport, pay an extra fee of $60, and it’ll arrive within 4 to 6 weeks.

If you need it in less than 4 weeks, you must have urgent international travel plans within 72 hours or a life-or-death emergency. The processing time is within 72 hours.

Contact a passport agency, center, or the life-or-death emergency service based on your situation.

Passport book vs. card

The passport book is better than the card because it can be used for international travel by air, sea, or land.

While the card costs less, it only works for international travel by sea or land from Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean, or Bermuda.


A passport is a travel essential, especially when you’re traveling abroad. Aside from traveling internationally, it also works as a form of identification.

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Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Portrait of David Em.

About David Em

David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Travel, the destination for travel advice and inspiration. He launched Nola & Luna Travel to share expert advice, useful tips, unbiased reviews, and inspiration about destinations across the globe.