Getting Your First American Passport

Did you know that the US passport is one of the strongest in the world? That means people who own it can enter a majority of countries around the world with just their passport, without a visa, or simply by making it on arrival. This allows US passport holders great freedom of international movement.

Are you dreaming to travel around the world? Well, then applying for a passport is the first step to start doing so. In this article, we’re going to explain the steps of getting your first US passport, as well as some tips.

Step 1: Fill the passport submission form

As is the case with a lot of official documents, it all starts with a form. Fill in the DS-11 form completely and honestly. Here are the tips on how to complete the form.

Important note: don’t sign the form just yet! Only sign it after you’re instructed at your local passport acceptance facility. This is important as it confirms the identity of the applicant as well as the authenticity of the data and signature.

Step 2: Prepare your proof of US citizenship

Only US citizens (and nationals) can own a US passport, so you must prove your legal right to apply for one by showing proof of your citizenship. If you were born in the US, you may simply show you’re the certificate of your birth. You may also submit your birth abstract if your state issues it. Whichever you use, that document has to clearly show:

  • Issuance by state of birth or the city
  • Applicant’s complete name, birth date, and place.
  • Full names of Parents of the applicant
  • The signature of the city, county, or state registrar
  • The date entered as per the registration office and it must be entered not more than one year of baby’s birth.
  • The stamp of issuing authority

If you were born abroad and your parents are US citizens, show CRBA Abroad or Documentation of your Birth, which serves the same function as a birth certificate.

Citizenship by birth isn’t the only way to gain US citizenship, it is also possible for foreign nationals to be naturalized and become US citizens. In this case, the naturalized citizen must show their Certificate of Naturalization as their proof of citizenship.

You must also submit a photocopy of the document that applies to your case. If there are two sides to your document, both sides need to be copied. The photocopies have to be single-sided, black and white, on white 8.5”x11” standard paper.

Step 3: Get a valid US passport photo

You will also need to submit a photo of yourself for your passport. This photo is not only used to identify you on your passport, but it will also enter a national database. This is why your photo must fulfill specific requirements. If your photo doesn’t match the requirements, it will be rejected and your passport application may be delayed.

Step 4: Pay the fees

You will need to pay an application fee and an acceptance (execution) fee after your passport is issued. The application fee for adults over 16 is $130 for the passport book, $30 for the passport card, or $160 total if you’re applying for both at the same time.

If you’re applying for a child under 16, the application fee for the passport book is $100, the card is $15, and a total of $115 if you’re applying for both at the same time.

In any case, the acceptance fee is $35.

To pay these fees, submit a check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of State”.

Speed up your passport application

The usual processing time for a US passport is 8 to 11 weeks. This time is counted from the day your application is accepted at a passport agency or center. However, there is a way to shorten this processing time to 5 to 7 weeks: by expediting your application. To expedite your application, an additional $60 fee applies.

Step 5: Apply in person!

Have you double-triple-checked all your documents? Are you sure you got everything right? Then you’re ready to apply in person to your local passport acceptance facility. Good luck!

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