The process of obtaining, renewing, or updating a passport is exactly what one would expect when working with a government agency: tedious, mind-numbing, and overly complex. While you’ll find everything you need to know about the often befuddling process on the U.S. State Department website, we’ve made things a little simpler for you by breaking down the basics—from forms to fees to IDs—and providing helpful links to the appropriate forms and websites.
Getting your first passport
To get your first passport, you’ll have to show up in person. Make an appointment at an acceptance facility or passport agency; search for the one closest to you here. You likely live near a facility where you can get a passport. Many post offices and even some public libraries can accept passport applications. Arrive at your passport agency with:
• Your filled-in DS-11 application form.
• Evidence of U.S. citizenship. Find a list of acceptable documents here.
• Valid identification. Find a list of acceptable ID here.
• A photocopy of the front and back of the identification you’re bringing on clean, white 8½” x 11″ paper.
• Your application fee. For a first-time adult passport, the total fee is $135.
• Passport photos. You can read more about the specifications for passport photos here. But most major drug stores, such as Walgreens or CVS, will sell appropriately sized passport photos that comply with government standards; this makes things a little easier.
Renewing a passport
You have two options here: Either you have your old passport or you don’t. If the former’s true, you can apply through the mail as long as your most recent passport is undamaged, was issued when you were at least 16 years old, and isn’t more than 15 years old. If you are nodding “yes” to all of that, simply mail in your old passport with the required documents and photos, and you’ll receive a new one in the mail in roughly four to six weeks. (Don’t worry. You’ll get your old passport back.) Here’s what you need: Form DS-82, your renewal fee ($110 for an adult), passport photos, and your old passport. Get more information about renewing a passport through the mail here.
Keep in mind that if you’ve changed your name since your last passport was issued, include an original certificate or court order that documents this; those without such papers must apply for a renewal in person.
Don’t have your old passport? Then you can’t get a passport renewed by mail. Head to a passport agency in person.