1. Choosing the right type of passport.
Any US citizen is eligible to receive a US passport, but depending on where you want to travel to, you'll need to work out whether you need to apply for a passport book or a passport card.
A passport card is a lot more convenient and is cheaper than a passport book, but it cannot be used for international air travel. However, it can be used to enter the USA through sea ports-of-entry or land border crossings from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean.
A passport book can also be used for all of the above purposes, as well as for all international travel by air. Most people opt for this type of passport since it allows you to travel a lot farther.
2. How to apply.
Regardless of which type of passport you want to apply for, the application process is practically identical, and you will need to go in person to present your application.
From Inside the US:
If you will be traveling in 3 or more weeks' time, then you simply need to follow the usual application process and visit your nearest passport acceptance facility.
However, if you urgently need your passport (2 weeks or less), then you will need to apply for an expedited process. Click here to learn how this works.
From Outside the US:
US citizens living outside of the USA will need to visit the closest US embassy or consulate in order to obtain all of the necessary paperwork and information.
As mentioned above, if you left it too late, you are able to apply for expedited service for an additional fee. However, some conditions need to be met. If you are traveling within 2 weeks, you will need to provide proof of immediate international travel, such as a copy of your cruise or flight tickets.
You can also apply for expedited service if you need to travel within 24 to 48 hours due to an emergency, such as a death in your immediate family, serious illness or injury.
If you are eligible, then you will need to ask for expedited service in person. First, you'll need to schedule an appointment. You can either do this online by making use of the Passport Services online appointment system or else you can use the 24/7 automated appointment system by calling 1-877-487-2778 or TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793.
Once you have an appointment, you will need to submit your request in person at your closest regional passport agency. Expedited service usually costs around $60 more than regular service, excluding applicable delivery fees.
Children aged 16 or 17 can apply for a US passport provided that they have all of the required identification documents, as well as a signed statement from a parent/guardian stating that they are aware of this application. Otherwise, they will need to attend the appointment with them.
For children under 16, simply follow the steps below:
1. Print and fill out form DS-11 online, but DO NOT sign it.
2. Find evidence of your child's US citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
3. Find proof of your parental relationships, such as a birth certificate or adoption decree.
4. Collect your ID and that of the other parent/guardian.
5. Photocopy both sides of the child’s citizenship evidence and both of your photo IDs.
6. Visit your closest acceptance facility with your child and the other parent/guardian.
7. Hand over all official documents and photocopies.
8. Bring the completed, unsigned DS-11 form and pay for all the required fees.