How To Get a Passport

How To Get a Passport 1

At first glance, getting a passport may seem a bit overwhelming. For starters, if you ask most anyone how to get a passport they will either tell you they don't know or that they got theirs years ago and don't remember exactly what you need to do - other than fill out an application.

This past week, Stephanie and I made it our goal to get the entire family passports. I already had mine. Stephanie's was long expired and our two girls have never been issued one. We learned that it is really not that difficult, but it takes time and is - unfortunately - several hundred bucks.

If you just need to renew a passport book/card, the process is quite simple.

Here are the steps if you're starting from scratch:

Step 1. Locate Birth Certificate(s).

That means a certified copy of each person's birth certificate. You will need to send in a copy with the passport application. Birth certificates can be easily obtained from your State's Vital Records Office. No State's Vital Records office can access the vital records of another State. If you or your child was born in a different State, you may request birth certificates by mail.

Step 2. Fill Out The Application (Form DS-11).

The easiest and neatest way to fill out the passport application is to do it online and then print it. The questions are straightforward and quick to fill in.

Step 3. Obtain Passport Photos (or take them yourself).

Each applicant needs to have two photos, proportioned correctly and cut to 2x2 inches. Your have three options for photos:

  1. Go to Walgreens, CVS, or another drugstore (~$8).
  2. Go to a Passport Acceptance Facility (~$15).
  3. Take and edit the photos yourself.
How To Get a Passport 2

If you take your own pictures (like we did), you don't have to pay anyone. Plus, you can retake the photos as you many times as you like until you get a good shot. The most difficult part for us was convincing our girls to look straight ahead while standing still up against a white background.

Next, you will need to crop the pictures into 2x2-inch images - keeping in mind the face needs to adhere to the dimensions given in the example of the passport application.

Step 4. Drive to a Passport Acceptance Facility.

The hard part is over (sorta). There are a handful of offices that will accept passport applications. The common ones include certain United States Post Offices and State Offices. Some facilities require appointments. Some are walk-ins. We actually took the whole family to a location that told us we needed to make an appointment. Fortunately, there was another location nearby that allow us to walk-in and submit our applications. Check the Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page to find out your best facility option.

Step 5. Pay Your Money.

Be sure to check with your facility about what form of payment they accept. We were required to bring a money order. Here is a breakdown of the prices. Also note: there is also an additional $25 Execution Fee paid separately for each application.

How To Get a Passport 3

How To Get a Passport 4

From pictures to payment, the process took us almost an entire day. It was a bit exhausting, but worth it. There are various factors like parental guardianship, serious medical problems, and other special circumstances that may slightly change the passport application process but these steps should give anyone a solid starting point.

Does everyone in your family have a passport? Do you have any tips for make this process easier?

13 comments on “How To Get a Passport”

  1. Hi Tim, Thanks for the great info! My husband and I have passports but our son (21 months old) does not. I have two questions - how long are the girls' passports valid? Also, is there a requirement to update their pictures in a few years?

    PS - I'm a big fan of Stephanie's at metropolitanmama and I'm looking forward to getting to "know you" through this blog! I'm praying for you and your family!

    1. Sarah - Passports for adults last 10 years. Passports for minors (15 years old and younger) last 5 years. A recent picture is required at the time of the renewal.

  2. We got ours two years ago when we all went to India. It wasn't nearly as complicated as I thought and took a surprisingly short time. Now we just need to get one for the guy. I love that the kids will have these for the rest of their lives - with stamps from all of their trips! (and their cute little pictures!)

  3. As someone who was born out of country, I will just warn that obtaining a copy of a Certificate of Birth Abroad is not as easy as getting a birth certificate from one of the 50 states. So, if you don't have a copy of your COBA, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get one!!

  4. Yeah, getting a passport is not an easy process. My wife and I got ours a few years back in California for a service trip to Panama and it seriously took eight hours. Between driving to the county recorder's office to get our birth certificates, and then finishing the passport process at the post office, (plus waiting in line). It also took 4-6 weeks for the passports to get mailed to us. Maybe it's a good thing that it's such a long process... it makes it so that you have to work for it and you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. :D

  5. Great article.

    Also important to mention that for children you have to have both parents present as listed on the birth certificate or adoption papers. Which may cause a challenge for some but is a wonderful way to protect children from certain situations.

  6. Getting a passport can be unexpectedly challenging so I always recommend leaving yourselves lots of time!

    My husband always travelled on his mother's passport as a child (not sure if you can still do this but NOT recommended!) and when it came time to get his own passport he was turned down because he was apparently on the "no fly" list. I've heard of people having problems because they had the same name as people on the "no fly" list, but in our case the problem was that my husband's father was a diplomat when he was born, and although his mother was a Canadian citizen there was some confusion over whether she had lost her citizenship by marrying a diplomat. Someone in the issuing department made an error when denying the passport, but once that happened it was very difficult to get them to reverse the decision.

    My husband ended up getting a LOT of ID and all ended happily but it was extremely stressful. We started the application process in October for a trip planned in May, and didn't get the final documents until the night before we left! We also discovered that here in Canada, a passport is considered a privilege rather than a right, and the bureaucrats who issue them have an incredible amount of power, which they wield in an extremely arbitrary fashion.

    His brother wasn't so lucky - he had to renounce his Austrian citizenship and become a landed immigrant at the age of 16 (place of landing: Ottawa Hospital!)

  7. Thanks! I need to get passports for all of us, starting with Cory so he can go on mission trips with church. This explains the process much better than anything else I found on the web.

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