If you are getting a US passport for the first time,
you must apply in person. After gathering together
your documentation, photos and US passport application,
you will need to head to a US passport office in order
to turn in your information and apply. Be sure to
leave at least six weeks from the time you apply to the
date of your trip, since six weeks is the processing time
for applications. It is also possible to apply for
an expedited passport,
which will be delivered within two weeks and will be a
little more expensive.
In order to be permitted to get a US passport, you need to be a US citizen. When you apply for your US passport, you will be required to bring proof of US citizenship. This can include your birth certificate, naturalization certificate (if you were not born in the United States but have become a citizen), or a Letter of No Record if you were born in the US but do not have a birth certificate. A Letter of No Record can only be issued by State level government. A delayed birth certificate will also be accepted. If you were born abroad to US citizen, you will need to provide your foreign birth certificate and proof of citizenship of your US parent, along with an affidavit of your parent showing where your parent has lived since your birth.
In addition to proof of citizenship, you will also need to bring two passport photos to the US passport office. Passport photos can be taken at many travel agencies and photo or copy shops. Photos must be 2x2 inches in size, identical, color, taken within the past 6 months, and offer full front facial views. You should also be sure to avoid wearing a hat, and be sure to wear items that you often wear, such as glasses. You will also need to present proof of identity, which can include your driver's license, government ID, or military ID. If you don't have these forms of identification, bring along someone who has known you for at least 2 years who has their ID, and fill out a DS-71 form.
To obtain your passport in person, you can go to one of many passport agencies or passport acceptance facilities. Although there are only 14 passport agencies across the nation, there are more than 7,000 passport acceptance facilities, many of which include some US post offices. Not all post offices offer passport services, however, so be sure to check in advance. Many agencies also only see applicants by appointment, so be sure to check in advance for appointments as well. Although a Social Security number is not required to obtain a passport, you may be charged an additional $500 for not providing one. Passport fees for anyone age 16 and older are $140 for the application, and $25 for the execution fee, for a total of $165. The total cost for anyone under age 16 is $120.
If you are renewing your passport, you can take care of your renewal in person or in the mail. Renewing through the mail is the preferred option for many passport holders, and is generally more convenient. You generally will not need to provide as much information when renewing as you will when you apply for your first passport.
Newborns, infants and children of all ages must also have their own passport, a law which
has recently been implemented. Children under the
age of 14 will need to have signatures from one or both
legal guardians in order to obtain a passport. Children
ages 14-17 may also need the signature of a parent or
legal guardian, and will be required to fill out their
own US passport application.