How to Apply for a U.S. Passport

From where you apply to how much it costs, here’s the scoop on how to get (or renew) your passport.

A U.S. passport atop an open passport with many stamps

Going abroad? You’ll need a passport.

Photo by Shutterstock

Applying for a passport is a crucial step for international travel. But the process of obtaining a passport can sometimes seem daunting, especially for first-time applicants or those who haven’t navigated the bureaucratic maze in a while.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler renewing your passport or a first-time applicant eager to embark on your maiden voyage, here’s your guide to applying for a U.S. passport.

Where do I apply for a passport?

You must apply in person at a passport center or passport acceptance facility if you are seeking your first U.S. passport, your previous passport was issued when you were under 16, it was issued more than 15 years ago, or your passport was lost, stolen, or damaged. Be sure to print out the appropriate documentation and review what will be needed before you visit. If you plan to apply in person, it would be wise to make an appointment. If you qualify to renew your passport by mail, acceptance facilities will not take your application.

Passport acceptance facilities are locations designated by the State Department to accept passport applications on its behalf, and they can often be found in post offices, libraries, or other government offices. Most of these require an appointment, which can be hard to come by at the last minute.

What kind of identification is required to get a passport?

When applying for a passport, legal identification is required, including a birth certificate, a U.S. passport (it can be an expired one), a certificate of citizenship, and/or a certificate of naturalization. Newly married or divorced applicants who wish to have their names changed on their passport will need supporting documentation, such as an official marriage certificate or divorce decree. If your photo ID comes from out of state, you may also have to present a second form of identification, such as a Social Security card.

You also will need new passport photos. Typically, drugstores and places like Costco offer same-day passport photo services and should be up to date on the latest requirements, including the right size and exposure of the photo, as well as what kind of accessories or facial expressions are accepted and preferred—for example, glasses off and a neutral expression.

How much does a passport cost?

You will be asked to provide a check or money order to cover the $130 fee (children under 16 pay $100, plus an additional $35 acceptance fee), and you will need to have the proper forms filled out. If you’re renewing a passport, you must send the old one with the application.

How do I renew my passport?

Renewing a U.S. passport can be just as complicated as the initial application. You’ll need the correct form, two color passport photos that are less than six months old, and your old passport (or proof of citizenship). The cost of passport renewal is the same as the cost of applying for your first passport: $130 for adults 16 and older, $100 for children under 16 (plus the $35 acceptance fee). For the best chance at a relatively quick renewal, consider applying in winter months.

This article originally appeared online in November 2018; it was updated in 2020 and 2023, to include current information.

Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.
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