How to Apply for a Passport

So, we’ve covered a lot here on this old blog. How to decide which study abroad program is right for you, common myths about financial aid, and how to ask for a recommendation letter.

Today, we’re going to jump ahead a little bit to the first thing you should do post-acceptance: get a passport.

Applying for a passport is actually surprisingly easy (if you’re inside the United States). The State Department offers an eligibility wizard that will allow you to go through and establish basic information like how much a passport will cost you and which forms you will need to fill out.

Passport books are the most expensive at $110, but are valid for all international travel. You can get a passport card for $30, but this only allows you to return to the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. For $140, you can apply for both documents at the same time.

If you choose standard processing for your passport, there are no additional fees and it will be processed in 4-6 weeks. This is the method I would recommend for most people to do. However, if you are running behind schedule, with a $60 fee, you can get your passport in 2-3 weeks. There are also options for standard and overnight deliveries.

(As a note, the State Department does charge a $25 execution fee along with the above listed charges.)

When you apply for a passport, you must have “evidence of your U.S. citizenship,” which can be proven with one of the following documents:

  • Certified U.S. birth certificate
  • Previous U.S. passport (may be expired, must be undamaged)
  • Consular Report of birth abroad
  • Certificate of naturalization/citizenship

You must also submit a form of photo identification, as well as a photocopy of that document, which can be one of the following:

  • Valid driver’s license (plus a second ID if issued in a different state than where you apply)
  • Undamaged U.S. passport (if issued less than 15 years ago)
  • Certificate of naturalization
  • Valid government ID (city, state, or federal)
  • Valid military ID

There are rules for your passport photo, most notably that it must be 2×2 inches, printed on thin, photo-quality paper, and taken within the past 6 months.

There is a form–the DS-11–which you have the option of either completing by hand or completing online and printing. You then must submit your application in person at an Acceptance Facility, which you can search for here.

An example of a completed U.S. passport.

An example of a completed U.S. passport.

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