Traveler holding their passport over a counter

Your passport is your license to travel. It enables you to enter other countries and return to the U.S. Obtaining a passport is a straightforward process, but there are a few things you need to get a passport. Below you’ll find information about passport requirements so you can roam.

Who needs a passport?

All U.S. citizens, even infants, need a passport to travel outside the country by air. Children under age 16 need the consent of both parents, and they must apply for a passport in person with their parents to have the application co-signed. So if you’re taking a family trip abroad, make sure everyone has a passport.

Length of application process 

You will want to allow at least four to six weeks to get your passport processed, so it’s best to apply for one well in advance of any travel plans. But if you need a passport right away, you can pay a fee to expedite the application process, which will take about two to three weeks. You may also be able to obtain a passport even sooner in the event of an emergency.

Necessary application documents

  • Your first step toward obtaining a passport is to fill out the U.S. State Department’s form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport. You can download the form online, but you must present it in person at a passport agency or passport acceptance facility, along with several other documents. You will need:
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship: A U.S. birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship are all acceptable documents.
  • Photo ID: A driver’s license, government-issued ID, military ID, Certificate of Naturalization, or previously issued passport (if you are applying for a new one) are all acceptable forms of ID.
  • Photocopy of front and back of photo ID
  • Passport photo
  • Passport fees

If you can’t provide a primary form of identification, you must submit as many secondary documents as you have available. Secondary forms of identification include:

Applicants with dual citizenship need a U.S. passport to enter and leave the country, and they may also be required to use a foreign passport to enter and leave the country for which they share citizenship.

Disqualifying factors for passport approval

In most cases, applying for a passport comes with few caveats, as long as you’ve followed all rules and procedures. However, certain factors can invalidate a passport application including:

  • Outstanding child support payment
  • Federal loans or debts
  • Felony drug convictions
  • Arrest warrants

Obtaining a passport may seem like a drawn-out process, but it’s simple if you take it step by step and meet all the requirements for a passport. Make a checklist of the tasks you need to complete and keep your upcoming travel plans in mind.

Once you’ve ensured that you will be able to travel to other countries, ensure that you are covered if the unexpected happens before or during your trip. Find out how travel insurance can protect you and your travel plans.

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