How Much Time Does It Take to Get a Passport? Here’s What You Should Know

Are you planning a trip outside of the country? Before you pack your bags and fly away, you'll need to obtain a passport. However, obtaining a passport, whether for the first time or renewing your dog-eared, stamp-filled travel companion, can be a difficult process.

So, how do you go about getting a passport? Is it possible to apply for a passport online, or do you have to go to a passport agency? What information is required for a passport application? When and how should you renew your passport? And, if you get a new passport, do you get to keep your old one? We'll go over it step by step and situation by situation.

However, the first step is nearly universal for almost everyone. To begin, locate an official passport acceptance facility (usually a post office, public library, or local government office that submits passport applications on behalf of the State Department) to begin the process. And, in order for the process to go as smoothly as possible, you'll need a long list of documents filled out and ready to go.

According to the State Department, the following items are required to apply for your first passport:

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A duly completed DS-11 form:

Proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate (other documents qualify as well), and a clean, legible black-and-white photocopy of this document on 8.5 by 11-inch paper.

Proof of identification, such as a driver's license or these other qualifying documents, as well as a photocopy of the front and back of your identification (also in black and white and on 8.5 by 11-inch paper).

A color passport photo that is two inches by two inches; many pharmacies and post offices offer passport photo services at reasonable prices, so you don't have to take yours at home. See the State Department's guide for a complete list of passport photo requirements (for example, you cannot wear a hat or glasses).

us passport renewal:

If the thought of flying internationally with a passport that is about to expire makes you nervous, give yourself plenty of time to renew (the government recommends renewing your passport nine months before it expires). In contrast to the process of obtaining your first passport, you are not required to visit an official facility in person. Instead, you can simply mail in all of your documents to renew your passport. That is, if you still have your old passport, it's in good condition aside from normal wear and tears, it was issued when you were over the age of 16 and within the last 15 years, and your name hasn't changed.

Check Your Situation:

Don't let the stress of planning a trip be exacerbated by the arrival of your passport. You can track the status of your passport online or by phone once you've submitted your documents and passport application online or at a passport acceptance location, whether it's a first-time application, renewal of passport, or name change.

Passport applications take seven to ten days to appear in the online system, but you can track your passport status by entering your last name, date of birth, and the last four digits of your Social Security number. You'll be able to see when it's been mailed to you and even sign up for email updates on the status of your passport application.

About This Author

Philip Diack is Founder and Managing Director of Passports and, a national passport and travel visa service with offices in Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, NYC, Denver and San Francisco.

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