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How to Get a U.S. Passport

Getting a U.S. passport is a fairly easy process. It requires filling out a form and submitting identification information and a picture to any location that accepts passport applications. The only requirement is that you have to be born in the U.S., or you must have become a naturalized citizen of the United States. You can also be a U.S. National, meaning you are an American Samoa or Swain’s Island citizen. If you are not a citizen of the U.S., then you will need to go through the naturalization process before you can apply for a U.S. passport.

What You Need to Get a U.S. Passport

As we stated, you only have four things you need to put together before submitting your information for a passport.



#1. Fill Out the DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport

The first thing you will need to do is fill out a DS-11 Form. Be sure to read the instructions carefully because some of them are tricky and easy to miss. For instance, you must only use black ink and only fill out the designated areas. If you make a mistake, you must start over with a fresh form. The government provides a form filler version of the DS-11, which allows you to type in each field. They also provide a version that you print and fill out manually. Also, remember that you do not need to sign the form. You must sign the form in the presence of the passport officer when you apply in person.



#2. Evidence of U.S. Citizenship

When you turn in your form, you must provide proof of U.S. citizenship. Primary evidence would be a U.S. birth certificate. However, if you were born outside of the U.S., you may present your citizenship certificate or your naturalization certificate. Or, if your parents were U.S. citizens in a foreign country when you were born, you can provide a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CBSA). This can be obtained from the U.S. Embassy in the country where you were born.

Suppose you became a U.S. citizen because your parent(s) became naturalized citizens. In that case, you would need to submit your foreign birth certificate that lists your parents, a copy of your green card, and your parent’s naturalization certificate.

If you are not able to provide primary evidence as listed above, the State Department will accept one of these two options as secondary evidence:

  1. A delayed birth certificate that states how it was created and has a signature of a birth attendant or affidavit signed by parents; or

  2. A Letter of No Record: This is a letter issued by the state registrar and should include your name and birthdate along with a list of the years your birth certificate was searched for as well as a statement that no birth certificate exists.

Unfortunately, by using one of the above secondary options, you’re also going to need to submit evidence of your early existence by providing some public records that include your full name, place of birth, and birth date. These can be things like census records, a baptism certificate, or school records.



#3. Identification

The next thing you need to bring with you is a photo ID and a photocopy of that same ID. Acceptable photo IDs can be a:

  • State-issued driver’s license,

  • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship,

  • Government employee ID,

  • U.S. military ID,

  • Valid current foreign passport, or

  • Green Card.

If you don’t have one of these, you can provide two forms of secondary ID. These also must include a photo of you. Examples of a secondary ID would be items like a:

  • State-issued non-driver ID,

  • Learner’s permit or temporary state-issued ID,

  • Social Security card,

  • Student ID,

  • Work ID,

  • Draft card,

  • Voter registration card, or

  • Expired driver’s license.

#4. Passport Photo

Speaking of photo IDs, your passport also requires a recent photo of you. This cannot be just any photo, and there are strict guidelines on the size and texture and how it should look. This is why most people use the U.S. Post Office — because most locations can accept your passport application and take your passport picture as well. If you do want to take the passport photo yourself, be sure to adhere to all of the requirements.

Where to Submit Your Passport Application

Most United States Post Offices can accept your first-time passport application. However, there are other locations available that may be more convenient for you. You can use the government’s Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page to find a location nearest you.

You will also need to bring the appropriate passport fees to your appointment. There is a little-known “passport card” that is available in addition to the usual passport booklet. However, you can only use the U.S. Passport Card when traveling to the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, or Bermuda.

How Long Does a U.S. Passport Take?

According to the State Department’s website, getting your passport is currently taking between 8 and 11 weeks. This period is measured from the time they receive your application at a passport agency or center. You have the option of cutting that down to 5 to 7 weeks by using their expedited service, but that will cost you another $60. Once submitted, you can track your passport’s status by using the State Department’s passport tracking tool.

It is possible to have your passport processed in three days, but it has to be because of urgent travel plans based on a life or death emergency that requires you to travel within 72 hours. Generally, the State Department defines a life or death emergency as a serious illness, serious injury, or death of a parent, guardian, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or child where you need to get to them quickly. If this is the case, call 1-877-487-2778 Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm Eastern time to set an appointment with a passport agency.

We’re Here to Help!

Whether you have questions or are experiencing problems obtaining or renewing your U.S. Passport, we at Jarbath Peña Law Group are here to help. Call us at 305-615-1005 or contact us through our online contact form today! We are highly-seasoned immigration lawyers who are passionate about helping you achieve your immigration status goals.


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