What Is the Process of Getting a Passport?

By Sarah Rogers
U.S. passports have a blue cover.

Stock pictures of a passport from the United States of America image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com

A passport is an essential travel document if you intend to travel abroad for any reason. It provides proof of your identity and nationality and is generally the only acceptable form of identification outside of your home country. To obtain a United States passport for the first time, you must apply for the passport in person.

Documents and Materials

To apply for a U.S. passport, you must first gather the following materials: passport application form DS-11 (available from the U.S. Department of State's website), proof of U.S. citizenship, valid identification, photocopy of the valid identification and two passport-sized photos of you (in color). Proof of U.S. citizenship is your certified U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate or consular report of a birth abroad. Valid identification is your U.S. driver's license or other government-issued identification.

Where to Go

Find the passport acceptance facility that is most convenient for you at the Department of State's search page. This may be a post office, public library or other municipal government office. Make an appointment by phone. Bring all the required documents and materials as well as the current passport application processing fee to your appointment.

Processing Time

Once your application has been processed, you will be issued your passport, which will be sent to you by postal mail. The exact processing time may vary depending on the volume of passport applications the department has at the time, but four to six weeks is normal.

About the Author

Sarah Rogers has been a professional writer since 2007. Her writing has appeared on Nile Guide, Spain Expat and Matador, as well as in “InMadrid.” She is also the author of “Living in Sunny Spain Made Easy.” Rogers often writes about living abroad and immigration law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and Spanish from San Francisco State University.