How to Get a US Passport and Passport Renewal Guide
A passport is an incredibly important card that allows you to travel from one place to another, and it also serves as an identifying document. As a citizen of the US, you can get a passport that is issued by the US Department of state, and also get a limited use passport. You cannot get in or out of the country without having a passport, so if you do not have one, or if the passport you had was lost and damaged, you should review it as soon as possible.
US Passport History
During the War of Independence in America, the countries consular issued passports to citizens of then 13 states. The first versions of these certificates were valid for 6 months, and they were printed on paper. The paper sheet passports had a description of the person they belonged to on one side only, and they were designed based on French passports.
This piece of identification that allowed people to travel have evolved since the War of Independence; for the first few decades, passports were issued by the Department of State, but they began to be issued by cities and states as well, and also by notaries public.
Types of US Passports
There are 5 types of booklets that allow citizens of the US to travel in and out of the country, and they are:
Regular Passport – dark blue cover
A booklet that is issued for non-citizen nationals of the country, as well as official citizens. The validity of the regular passport is up to 10 years (for persons over the age of 16) or 5 years (for people younger than 15). There is also a sub-type of regular passport that is a non-fee booklet that is issued for specific purposes and in specified categories (such as people who are work on a US flag-vessel). These booklets are valid for 5 years, and they cannot be used for any purpose than the one listed on them).
Service Passport (gray cover)
A booklet that is issued to "certain non-personal services contractors who travel abroad in support of and pursuant to a contract with the U.S. government", and to show that holders of these passports are "to conduct work in support of the U.S. government while simultaneously indicating that the traveler has a more attenuated relationship with the U.S. government that does not justify a diplomatic or official passport."
Official passport (red-brown cover)
These booklets are issued for people with an official capacity as citizen-employees assigned overseas (temporarily or permanently). They are also issued for members of Congress who travel overseas for official US business and military personnel who are deployed overseas. An official passport is valid for 5 years.
Diplomatic passport (black cover)
A passport that is issued to American diplomats and those who are registered as their dependents. They are also issued for citizens who live in the US, but travel abroad for diplomatic duties. Other diplomats that get a black passport are President of the United States, the President-Elect, the Vice President, and Vice President-elect, the Attorney General, and Deputy Attorney General, Supreme Court Justices, current cabinet members, former secretaries and deputy secretaries of state, retired career ambassadors and some members of Congress.
Applying for a US Passport
To get a passport of any kind, the people who request them must apply. In cases where the person who wants to get an American passport lives in another country, they need to apply with the US embassy in your country of residence. When the passport is issued, it is sent to the US embassy where the person who requested it can take it. The process takes between 4-6 weeks, and there are cases where people's applications are denied.
To get a passport within the United States, you will need to fill out a form called the DS11. People eligible to fill out these forms are:
- Under the age of 16
- The person has never been issued with a US passport
- The person applying for the passport was under 16 when he/she first applied for the booklet
- The person's passport was stolen or lost
- The person had a passport that was issued more than 15 years before the current application
- The applicant changed their name since their last passport was issued
- To complete the process, the person who is filing the application has to appear in person in the issuing authority and pay a $35 fee execution fee (aside from the cost of the passport/card).
The booklet must have an up-to-date photo of the person, and there are certain requirements for these photos:
- 2 in × 2 in (5.1 cm × 5.1 cm)
- The height of the head (top of hair to bottom of chin) should measure 1 to 1 3⁄8 inches (25 to 35 mm)
- Eye height is between 1 1⁄8 to 1 3⁄8 inches (29 to 35 mm) from the bottom of the photo
- Front view, full face, open eyes, closed mouth, and neutral expression
- Full head from top of hair to shoulders
- Plain white or off-white background
- No shadows on the face or in background
- No sunglasses (unless medically necessary). As of November 1, 2016, the wear of eyeglasses in U.S. passport photos is not allowed.
- No hat or head covering (unless for religious purposes; religious head covering must not obscure hairline)
- Normal contrast and lighting
Applying for a New Passport
There are cases where people lose their passport, the booklet is damaged or gets stolen. If this happens to you, you can get a new one by following these steps:
- Go to your local passport acceptance facility (in certain cases, you will need to make an appointment in these facilities)
- Provide a filled DS-11 form
- Provide proof of US citizenship
- Take a government-issued photo ID (military ID or a driver's license)
- Provide a color passport photo (that complies with the requirements listed above)
- Payment for the issuing (money order or check)
How Long Before I Get the New Passport?
Issuing a new booklet can help you travel again, and the processing time can vary based on the facility you went to, and in certain "busy times" of the year. The average waiting period for a new passport is 3-8 weeks, and you can choose to get the new booklet either in person or via mail. You can also ask to expedite the process, and in this case, the processing time is 2-3 weeks.
There is another expedited process in local agencies that can shorten the waiting period for 8 business days. This expedited process is issued when there is an emergency or death, as well as in cases where you are scheduled to travel within 2 weeks.
To get a travel booklet in case of emergencies, you will need to provide proof of emergency or proof of an upcoming trip. These proofs have to be provided in person with your nearest passport agency. Also, you have to make an appointment to get an emergency issue of a new booklet.
Passport Card and Passport Book – What are the Differences?
Aside from the travel booklet, you can also get a card, and there are certain differences between these two. A card is valid for international travel by land or sea to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean only. The card is wallet sized, and it costs less than a book.
A passport book, on the other hand, is required for all international air travel, it is valid for travel by sea, land or air, and it is valid for all destinations.
Before you apply for a Passport, run a Background Check and See if you have Any criminal records!