Everything You Need to Know About Applying for Your First US Passport

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The U.S. passport is one of the world’s most powerful so it’s difficult to overstate the benefits of securing this essential travel document, which opens the door to literally everywhere you could ever want to go.

Suddenly, your bucket list doesn’t feel so daunting.

While obtaining your first passport undoubtedly requires a bit of effort as you’ll have to fill out Form DS-11, track down some documents and make copies, save up some money for fees and apply in person, it’ll be well worth it as your new passport will be valid for the next 10 years (assuming you’re age 16 or older).

Here’s your helpful guide to applying for your first U.S. passport.

Man holding passport: PHOTO: Man holding a passport. (Photo via kieferpix / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

How Long Does It Take?

The length of the process of applying for a passport largely depends on you and how motivated you are. Realistically, you could gather everything you need in a day. Filling out Form DS-11 only takes a few minutes even though you might need to reach out to your parents to confirm both of their birthplaces if you don’t know already.

The odds are you already have a proof of identity such as a driver’s license handy and getting a copy of your birth certificate to prove your U.S. citizenship is relatively quick and cheap if you don’t already have it in your possession. CDC.gov is a great place to start. Just select your birth state and follow the links to request a certified copy of your birth certificate.

Once you have your identification and proof of U.S. citizenship, you’ll need to make copies of both. Remember to make copies of the front and back of each.

After you submit everything in person, it typically takes anywhere from four to six weeks for your passport to be processed unless you pay for expedited service. I received my new passport in less than one month with routine service.

How Much Does It Cost?

Adults applying for the first time can expect to pay at least $145 for their passport book. The application fee is $110 and the execution or acceptance fee is an additional $35. Expedited service will cost you an extra $60 and photo services also cost extra.

My new passport came out to roughly $160 including the color photograph I didn’t already have. However, you can also use the U.S. State Department’s Fee Calculator to determine exactly how much you’ll need to complete the process.

Where Do I Go?

You can search for your nearest passport acceptance facility on the U.S. State Department’s website simply by typing in your zip code. Be sure to double check the location hours and whether your facility requires appointments before you show up.

Many locations even offer photo services on-site so you don’t have to go out of your way to obtain a two-by-two-inch color photograph or worry whether the one you have will be sufficient.

You can track your application status as soon as seven to 10 days after you apply and most likely in a few short weeks you’ll have your passport book along with information about your brand new travel document from the U.S. State Department.

That’s it. You’re done. All that’s left to do is start packing and travel the world with no limits!

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