Getting a valid U.S. passport is a necessary step in travelling internationally, and it is especially important if you are working towards residency. This document will be your valid ID while abroad, and it will also function as a necessary document for future paperwork. I will walk you through the step by step process to getting your first passport.
Here is the step by step process:
Complete the DS-11 form by hand or with the online wizard. I highly recommend using the online wizard. Simply follow the link, click submit, and enter your personal information in the webpage.
This is not an online passport application. This is a way to complete the DS-11 Form to print out later. Enter your information carefully into the fields.
Page 1: Personal information fields.
Page 2: Contact information.
Page 3: Travel plans (It’s completely optional. You can leave it blank).
Page 4: Emergency contact (It’s completely optional).
Page 5: Your most recent passport. If this is your first passport application, select “none”.
Page 6: Applicant’s parent & spouse information.
Page 7: List of other names you have used (It’s completely optional).
Page 8: Application review page. Check that all the information is correct.
Page 9: Passport products & fees. Select your passport options.
In page 9 you choose what passport options your prefer. First, you can select if you want a passport book, a passport card, or both. The passport book is necessary for travelling internationally, so select this option at least. A passport card is useful for someone who travels frequently between neighboring countries by land or sea, but a passport book works just as well. You also have the option of selecting a large book for your passport for no extra charge.
Travelling and getting foreign visas can take up a lot of pages. Once you run out of pages, you have to get a passport renewal regardless of your expiration date. Plan ahead and save yourself the hassle by selecting “Large Book”.
Further down in the page, you can find the processing methods. If you’re in a rush and need the passport soon, select “Expedited Service”, but for 99% of us, “Routine Service” works.
Typically, it takes 8-11 weeks to process the passport after sending your application if you select “Routine Service”. With “Expedited Service” it will take anywhere between 5-7 weeks to process.
Finally, at the end of the page you can select options for the delivery method, additional fees, and you can see the total cost. Standard delivery works just fine. There is no need to pay extra for 1-2 day delivery, and the file search fee is completely unnecessary if you can show proof of citizenship.
One check is payable to the “Department of State” and the other check will be written out to your acceptance facility. These checks along with the other requirements will be discussed below.
In the following page, you are given 3 steps.
Step 1 describes how to submit your application:
It provides a link to locations where you can apply. In this link you can search by ZIP code for acceptance facilities near you. It also provides a link for people applying for a passport outside of the United States. There, you can find an embassy where you can apply for a passport. This is useful for someone who has lost or damaged their passport while abroad.
After you find a suitable location, you can make a reservation through the USPS appointment scheduler. Make sure you have enough time before your appointment to collect the additional requirements described in Step 2.
Step 2 gives you information about what you need to submit alongside the DS-11 Form:
Proof of U.S. Citizenship – Original or Certified copy and a photocopy of your proof of U.S. citizenship.
If you were born inside the U.S., a valid U.S. Birth Certificate will be your proof of U.S. Citizenship.
Proof of Identity – Original ID and photocopy of your ID.
(List of Acceptable IDs)
There are two forms of ID: Primary ID and Secondary ID.
You either need 1 Primary ID or at least 2 Secondary IDs.
Primary ID – official ID with a picture such as an in-state, fully-valid Driver’s License (if it is out-of-state, it counts as secondary ID).
Secondary ID – Less official ID such as a student ID or official ID without a picture such as a Social Security card.
A Recent Color Photograph – You need a professional 2″x2″ passport photo. Do not attach it to the DS-11 form. Save it in an empty envelope, and take extra copies. You will need them later.
You can get this done at various pharmacies, retail stores, and select shipping centers: CVS, Walgreens, Target, Wal-Mart, USPS offices, and FedEx. Do not try to take your own passport photo. There are many requirements, and having it done professionally will save you from having issues later on.
Fees – Bring 2 checks to your passport processing appointment. One for the passport book, and another for the execution fee. (pricing link)
Step 3 gives you printing instructions and requests that you print the DS-11 form:
In the bottom left corner, you can print the PDF DS-11 Form. Check to make sure that all of the information on the form is accurate. It should include the answers from the online wizard.
- Print on SINGLE-SIDED PAPER. We cannot accept double-sided forms.
- Compare your printed form to what appears on your screen.
- Make sure all data blocks and the barcode appear clearly and in the same format.
- If there are any distortions, smudges, missing blocks or data, or fading, it may be due to variations in printer types, printer drivers, or low-ink levels.
- If you cannot correct these problems after checking your printer, do not submit the form.
- Instead, download a blank form from our Passport Forms page and complete it by hand in black ink.
Whether you fill it out online or by hand, it is important that you do not sign the form until you are instructed to do so. You will sign it in front of a passport designated official whom you will meet when applying in person.
Make sure you have the following documents for your appointment:
- A completed (and not signed) DS-11 Form.
- One recent (professionally done) passport photo.
- Original or Certified copy and a photocopy of your proof of U.S. citizenship.
- Proof of Identity – Original ID and photocopy of your ID.
- Two checks – One for the passport book, and another for the execution fee.
Finally – Go to your appointment and apply for your U.S. passport.
Typically, it takes 8-11 weeks to process the passport after sending your application. You will receive the passport in the mail, so keep an eye out for it. In the meantime you can check your application status online at passportstatus.state.gov. You might not receive a status for up to 4 weeks after your application date.
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