Getting a US Passport

Getting A US Passport

Getting A US Passport

Getting a US Passport to take that Ancestral Trip can be exciting. I remember the first time I got my passport to go to Scotland. The process can be confusing if you haven’t gotten a US passport, but it can be simple, and this article will make it easy to understand.

Getting a US passport for the first time can be an exciting experience. It is a crucial document that allows you to travel internationally and proves your citizenship.

The process of obtaining a passport can be straightforward, but it requires you to provide specific documents and follow a set of procedures. That says you are going somewhere special. You are finally going to make that trip to where your ancestors lived. Whether you do genealogy research or immerse yourself in the culture, getting that passport in your hand makes it real.

Even though I have had a US passport since 2008, my 84-year-old mother just got hers. And that was exciting for both of us, especially when it came in the mail. It never gets old.

Applying in Person

Getting a US Passport

For your first-time passport, you will need to apply in person. Once you have all your documents, you can make an appointment at your local post office or an acceptance facility. This link will be your best friend when getting information. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html.

Hopefully, this article will answer any questions you have in one place.

Application for a US Passport

To apply for a US Passport, you must first fill out but not sign a DS-11 Passport Application. The form can be found on the website link above. There is a form filler; you can print it and fill it out. Remember, do not sign it; that must be done before the agent accepts your application.

The application is straightforward. The form gives you steps for filling it out and explains what forms of ID and Citizenship evidence are acceptable. It takes you through everything you need to be successful.

Once this form is filled out but not signed, you must collect your documents to accompany it. I keep harping on not signing this form until you are in front of the agent because if you do, you must fill out another form, which could disrupt your appointment, or you might even have to reschedule it.

Collecting Your Documents
  • Form DS-11 completed, not signed (eye roll, there she goes again…)
  • Evidence of Citizenship – Original and a photocopy
  • Photo Identification – original and photocopy
  • Passport Photos
Evidence of Citizenship

The evidence of citizenship you provide must be one of the following: an original or certified copy of the document.

Your evidence must be an original or certified copy. A certified copy is a document with a seal or stamp from the issuing authority. In other words, Uncle Joe can’t stamp it certified because he is a notary. Just saying….

Birth Certificate
  • Issued by the city, county, or state of birth.
  • Lists your full name, date of birth, and place of birth.
  • List your parent(s)’ full names.
  • Has the date filed with the registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth).
  • Has the registrar’s signature.
  • Has the seal of the issuing authority.
Other Identifying Documents
  • Valid, undamaged US Passport. Expired passports are accepted.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship
Copies of ID and Documents

You must present one of the following identification documents (IDs) to the acceptance agent. The ID must readily identify you. Many states are issuing digital driver’s licenses, but these are unacceptable. It must be a physical document and a copy of the front and back. If you present an out-of-state license or ID, you must produce a second form of ID.

List of Acceptable Documents
  • Valid or expired, undamaged U.S. passport book or passport card.
  • In-state, fully valid driver’s license or enhanced driver’s license with photo
  • Certificate of Naturalization 
  • Certificate of Citizenship 
  • Government employee ID (city, county, state, or federal)
  • U.S. military or military-dependent ID
  • Current (valid) foreign passport
  • Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular ID) – commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant.
  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) – commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant.
  • Trusted Traveler IDs (including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards)
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards and Native American tribal photo IDs.
  • Other documents: 1) In-state, fully valid learner’s permit with photo, 2) In-state, fully valid non-driver ID with photo, or 3) temporary driver’s license with photo. Note: you may be asked to present an additional ID when presenting one of these three documents. 

Passport Photos

When you apply in person, you must submit two photos. If CVS and Walgreens have a photo center, you can get your photo taken there. Some online applications can take your picture, but you must print it out.

  • Submit a color photo taken in the last six months.
  • Use a clear image of your face. Do not use filters commonly used on social media.
  • Have someone else take your photo. No selfies.
  • Take off your eyeglasses for your photo.
  • Use a plain white or off-white background.
  • Submit a high-resolution photo that is not blurry, grainy, or pixelated.
Passport Photo Specs
  • The correct size of a passport photo is:
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) 
  • The head must be between 1 -1 3/8 inches (25 – 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
  • Printed on matte or glossy photo-quality paper.
  • Do not digitally change the photo.
  • You cannot submit a damaged photo with holes, creases, or smudges.
  • Have a neutral facial expression with both eyes open and mouth closed. 
  • Face the camera directly with a full face in view. 

Note to parents of young children: The Photo Examples section on https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html has sample photos and tips for submitting a baby’s passport photo. Babies don’t understand how to sit still while being photographed.

Restrictions on Passport Photos
  • You cannot wear glasses.
  • If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, please include a signed note from your doctor with the application.
  • Taken in clothing typically worn daily.  
  • You cannot wear a uniform, clothing that looks like a uniform, or camouflage attire. 
  • You cannot wear a hat or head covering.
  • If you wear a hat or head covering for religious purposes, submit a signed statement that verifies that the hat or head covering in your photo is part of traditional religious attire worn continuously in public.
  • If you wear a hat or head covering for medical purposes, submit a signed doctor’s statement verifying that the hat or head covering in your photo is used daily.
  • Your full face must be visible, and your hat or head covering cannot cast shadows or cover up part of your face.
  • You cannot wear headphones or wireless hands-free devices.

These requirements are listed on the travel.state.gov website.

Special Circumstances
a person holding passports
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

There are sometimes exceptional circumstances when applying for a US passport. Sometimes, you need to get your child a passport, or maybe your dog ate your passport. Meh, it happens.

If any of the below categories apply, you may have additional requirements for your passport application. Please see the relevant page for more information.

  • Children under 16
  • Children 16-17
  • The Previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged.
  • Owe >$2500 in child support.
  • Selecting your gender marker 
  • Official, diplomatic, or another special issuance passport (only accessible from a U.S. government device)

Calculating Fees

Adult Applicants(Age 16 and older):

ProductFormApplication FeeExecution (Acceptance) Fee
Passport BookDS-11$130$35
Passport CardDS-11$30$35
Passport Book & CardDS-11$160$35

Please note: The passport card is valid only for return to the US from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.


Child Applicants(Age 15 and younger):
ProductForm Application FeeExecution (Acceptance) Fee
Passport BookDS-11$100$35
Passport CardDS-11$15$35
Passport Book & CardDS-11$115$35

The expedited fee is $60. However, depending on the backlog or the time of year, this might only shorten the time by a week or two.

Please note: The application fee and the execution fee are paid separately.

  • Submit a check (personal, certified, cashier’s, traveler’s) or money order payable to “U.S. Department of State.”
  • Credit and debit cards are not accepted.
  • Do not cancel your check or money order after you have applied.
How to Pay

The acceptance facility will charge a separate $35 fee:

  • Money orders at all locations, payable as instructed by the facility.
  • Personal checks and cash(exact change only) at some locations.
  • Credit cards can be used at U.S. postal facilities and other locations. Note: the facility may add a surcharge to cover the cost of a credit card transaction.  

Check with your acceptance facility to learn what payment they will accept before you apply. 

A Passport Acceptance Facility

A US Passport Acceptance Facility can be found at iafdb.travel.state.gov, but generally, you can book an appointment at post offices, local libraries, county probate offices, and tax collector offices.

The website above allows you to enter your zip code into the search box, which will give you a list of places to contact for an appointment.

Tracking Online

Once your passport has been submitted, you can track the status online.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast.html

For a standard passport, the turnaround time is 7 to 10 weeks. Processing time begins once they receive the application. Expedited processing time is about 4 to 6 weeks once they receive it.

If you submit your application for an expedited passport to the Agency, you must prove that you are flying internationally within the next 14 days.

Final Thoughts

journey, adventure, photo-1130732.jpg

Getting a US passport is such an incredible feeling. It’s the beginning of your journey to the Celtic Nations. It’s essential to remember that if you’re planning to travel abroad and already have a passport, it must be valid for at least six months from the date of your return journey. This is a requirement for most countries, so checking your passport’s expiration date before you travel is crucial to avoid any potential issues.

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps you understand how to get a passport. Happy meandering! Slànte Mhath!

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