A passport is a must-have for any US citizen in the modern world. When asked for a form of valid ID for registry, visa applications, etc., a passport is always at the top of the list. Not only is it a great form of ID, but holding a valid passport allows you to travel to 186 countries without a visa, which can be a huge barrier for citizens of other countries. When thinking about applying for your passport, you might wonder, “how long does it take to get one passport?” This article will outline everything you need to know before, during, and after the application process and explain just how long it will take to get your passport.
Let’s get the question out of the way first. There are four processing times available depending on when you need your passport to arrive: routine, expedited, urgent travel, and emergency. It is good to note that processing times don’t include mailing times, which can add up to 2 weeks depending on where in the country you’re located.
- Routine processing time for a passport is roughly 8-11 weeks and is used most commonly by those applying for a passport.
- Expedited processing times can take 5-7 weeks and cost approximately 60 USD.
- Urgent travel is for those who need to apply for a passport quickly, due to travel within 14 days. To use this method, you need to provide proof of travel and call your local passport acceptance facility to make an appointment with an agent, and some restrictions will apply.
- Emergency travel, often referred to as life-or-death emergency travel, and is reserved for those who need a passport due to the passing of a loved one or need to visit a family member who will pass or has life-threatening injuries. To use this method, you will need to phone, make an appointment, and bring the emergency or death documentation, proof of travel, a passport application, and required documents. This can be done as fast as 72 hours (3 working days).
Keep in mind that these are just the application processing times, for Routine and Expedited you will need to add 1-2 weeks on top of that for waiting time between your submission and they day it actually get processed. You can select trackable mail for your passport for an extra fee that protects your document and gets it delivered to you within one to two days after it’s completed.
You can check your application status online at passportstatus.state.gov
To obtain your passport, the first thing you must do is see if you qualify. In order to apply for a passport, you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national. You must then decide if you would like to apply for a passport card or a passport book. A passport card is significantly less expensive and can be used for land or sea travel into Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean, or Bermuda but is not valid for international air travel. In contrast, the passport book can be used in all international travel situations, whether that is by land, sea, or air.
If you qualify, the next step is to prepare your documents to be submitted alongside your passport application.
To apply for your passport, you will need these documents:
- The application form which can be picked up from a passport acceptance facility, downloaded, and printed at home or online. It is important to remember: do not sign the passport application form until you are instructed to do so.
- Personal documents include your original proof of citizenship, acceptable photo ID, and a photocopy of the front and back of the two documents.
- Social Security Number
- A passport photo that follows standard photo dimensions
If you are applying for a children’s passport or a minor’s passport under the age of sixteen, you must apply in person, and both parents need to give consent. The easiest way to do this is if both parents apply in person, but if one cannot make it, you need to provide a consent statement and evidence as to why the other parent is not present.
Please note that you will need your Social Security number to apply for a passport. If you do not have one, you are still able to apply, but you will need to print and fill out a Sworn Statement from the U.S. government website.
Once you have completed the passport application and have the necessary documents, you must print out the application and bring it to a passport acceptance facility.
Knowing which forms of ID are acceptable can be tricky, especially if you are missing one or more of these forms of ID. Luckily the US government provides lots of options for those who are looking to apply for a passport.
Forms of acceptable ID include:
- Proof of citizenship: A US Birth Certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Citizenship Certificate.
- Photo ID: Driver’s license, Military ID, Government-issued ID, Certificate of Naturalization, or previously issued passport.
First-time applicants who are applying for a passport book (not the passport card) will be required to pay a fee of 130 USD with their passport application in the form of a cheque. A 35 USD fee will also be applied at the time of the signing in the form of a cheque, money order, or credit card (although there may be an extra fee if you use a credit card).
Submitting In Person
When you have completed but not signed your passport application and have your photo, the fee, and required documents, it’s time to submit your application. If you choose to submit your application in person, you must bring it to a Passport Acceptance Facility. There are over 8 thousand passport acceptance facilities across the United States. Using the online search tool on the U.S. Department of State website will make choosing a location near you simple and quick. Bring your application, documents, passport photo, and fee into the facility and an agent will verify everything for you and begin the processing period. Unfortunately, if it is your first time applying for a passport, you do need to apply in person. If you renew your passport, you can mail in your renewal form.
A US passport is valid for ten years if you were sixteen years or older when you applied. It is valid for five years if you applied when you were under sixteen. If you have a valid passport that is going to expire, you can renew your passport using the DS-82 form.
Specific categories of people may have additional requirements for their passport application. Those include:
- Children who are under sixteen years old
- Children who are between the ages of sixteen and seventeen
- If your previous passport was stolen or lost
- If you owe more than 2500 USD in child support
- Your gender marker is not on the form (although, as of late 2023, there will be a gender-neutral marker on the application form).
- You need an official or diplomatic passport.
- Before you submit your passport application, double-check all of your documents. If you find that some of your personal documents are too old, illegible, or need repair, it might be best to reapply for those first, as this can make the passport application process more time-consuming.
- It is best to have your passport photo taken by a professional, but you should double-check it meets the requirements even though it is professionally taken.
- Make sure your passport photo is taken within the last six months, clear, and on a white background. The photo must not have any filters or alterations on it and is high resolution and printed on matte or glossy paper.
- The photo must be 2 inches by 2 inches.
- The photo must not be damaged, creased, or smudged in any way.
- With the exception of religious or medical purposes, you must not be wearing any hats, head coverings, scarves, or glasses.
- Make sure you are not wearing headphones or a uniform, which will disqualify your photo.
- You can call 1-877-484-2778 or check the online passport system website to check the status of your passport application.
- Make your appointment at an Acceptance Facility near you as soon as possible, especially if you live in a major metropolitan area, as slots fill up fast.
- When you receive your new passport in the mail, make sure to open it and sign it on the signature line.
Applying for a passport can be a daunting task, as it requires very specific instructions that must be followed. If you do not know anyone who has a passport and can help you apply for your passport, this can add to the confusion. Following the requirements in this article and the U.S. government website as guides, you should have your brand new U.S. passport in your hand in no time, and you can jet-set almost anywhere in the world.