Which US Passport Service Do I Apply For?

Applying for a US Passport can be a daunting process, starting with trying to determine what you are eligible for and what are the requirements for a specific passport service. 

Bonus : Differences between a Passport Book and Passport Card

To start there are two types of "passports".  A US Passport book is a physical book with pages inside it for stamps and travel visas.  Books are required for air travel and are definitely the most common type of passport available.  There are more than 20 million issued every year.  Another "passport" is a US Passport Card.  Passport Cards are the size of a drivers license and are useful as a form of ID and travel via car and sea to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

Now that we have established the difference between a passport card and passport book, let's dive into the types of services available.

Which passport service do I apply for?

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New Passport Applications

If you have never had a US Passport before and this is a first time passport application for you.  Then, the information below is for you.

First off, you'll need to gather a few items for your passport application.  Let's go through the requirements one by one.

  1. You'll need to provide proof of US citizenship.  This typically is in the form of a certified birth certifcate or naturalization certificate. 
  2. You'll need to have a valid Drivers License that was issued more than 6 months ago.
  3. You'll need to complete a DS-11 New Passport Application.  Do not sign this yet.
  4. You need to obtain 2 new US passport photos that meet the passport photo requirements.  These photos should have been taken in the past 6 months.
  5. You'll need to make a payment to the US Department of State for either $130 or $190 for a passport book if you are an adult (over the age of 17). If you are a minor, the fee is $80 and $140 if you would like to expedite your passport.  Check here for passport fees
  6. ** If you are utilizing a private passport expediting service, you'll likely need to provide an itinerary and a letter of authorization.

Once you have gathered the above 6 documents, the next step is the  applicant needs to make an appointment at a local Passport Acceptance Facility, which is typically a local post office. 

If the applicant is over 18, they can apply on their own.  If they are under 16 years of age, then both parents need to go with the applicant.  Between those two, only one parent needs to go and give permission.

New Adult Passports are valid for 10 years.  Minor passports are valid for 5.

Minor Passport Applications

If a child needs a passport, they need to follow the instructions above for applying for a new passport, with the consent of both parents.  This occurs up until the age of 17.  NOTE: a child/minor passport is not eligible to be renewed.  Therefore; each time the passport is expired, you need to follow the same process above to apply for a new passport.  This is due to protection of the child and verification that all parents are consenting the the child being eligible to depart the country.

Lost or Stolen Passports

If the passport has been issued and is now lost or has been stolen, whether a child or an adult, then you need to apply for a new passport again.  Follow the steps associated to a NEW passport application with one additional step.  For these situations, you need to report your passport as missing to the US Department of State. 

There is a form named a DS64 Statement of a Lost or Stolen Passport that is used in your application to report the passport as missing, canceling it out and making you elibligle to obtain a new US passport.  Please note, losing a passport is considered a no-no as they are sensitive documents.  IF you get in a habit of losing passports, you are likely to be issued a limited passport in the future or just simply denied one.

Renewing a US Adult Passport

If you have an adult 10 year passport that is in your possession, then it may be eligible to renew the passport.

Below are the necessary conditions you must meet to renew your current passport.

  1. You were 16 years or older when receiving your first passport.
  2. It's in your legal name, or you have legal documents to support the name change.
  3. Your passport was issued less than 15 years ago.
  4. Your passport is undamaged and in your possession.

Remember that you can’t apply to renew the passport for any children under the age of 16. These passports are not renewable. Likewise, you can’t renew your passport if you’ve had it for more than 15 years. At this point, you are legally required to change your passport.

About This Author

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

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