Determining the steps of how to get a passport fast can be intimidating, especially if you are a first time applicant. It helps to understand what exactly this document does and why it is issued. Most governments issue a passport for the sole purpose of international travel.
Not only is it a form of identification but it also allows the passport holder to return to the country that it was issued in. It does not entitle the holder any special rights or privileges when abroad, nor does having one guarantee you entry into another country.
This article covers the requirements for adults getting their passport for the first time. Although requirements for those under 18 are almost identical, there are a few minor changes.
How to Get a Passport Fast - First Timers
1-Applying In Person
If this is the first time you are applying for a passport, your last passport was issued when you were under 16 years of age or it has been more than 15 years since it was issued then you will have to apply in person. A couple of other reasons you would have to apply in person would be if your passport was lost, stolen or damaged or you are under 16 years of age.
2-Where to Apply
• If you need to get a passport fast (or renew one) because you have to travel in less than 2 weeks or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks then you can schedule an appointment at a regional passport agency by calling 1-877-487-2778. Because everything is done in person, most of the time you will be able to pick up your passport no later than the following day.
• If you have a bit more time you can visit a local passport application acceptance facility in your area. Here you can choose to have your application processed using routine service (4-6 weeks) or by expedited service (2-3 weeks). There is a fee for expedited service and don’t forget to make sure the words “EXPEDITE” is on the envelope in large letters. These facilities are often found in most post offices and courthouses. You can visit the U.S. State Department website to find out specific places, but you probably won’t need to.
• Perhaps the fastest way to get a passport is by using a professional passport expediter. These are companies that are registered with the U.S. Department of State and authorized to submit applications on behalf of their clients. Basically, instead of you visiting a regional passport agency, they do it for you. There will be charges based upon how fast you want your document, so be prepared to pay a lot more. Try to choose a company that has been in business a few years, in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and a rating of at least a “B.”
• If you are outside the U.S. then you need to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you.
3-Fill Out Form DS-11: Application for A U.S. Passport
You can find the form online or at any local acceptance facility or passport agency. If getting it online you can either print a blank form off and complete by hand or fill in the info online and then print it. You must not sign the application until instructed to do so by the acceptance agent and you will be required to enter your Social Security Number.
4-Submit Form DS-11
Submit the application in person to an acceptance facility or passport agency. If the person is underage there will be special submission requirements such as a parent or guardian being present.
5-Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
To get a passport you are going to have to bring some proof that you are a U.S. citizen. Any documents you submit with your DS-11 for evidence will be mailed back to you along with your new passport or in a separate mailing all together. Below are the primary forms of evidence of U.S. Citizenship (you need one).
• Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state.
• Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
• Naturalization Certificate
• Certificate of Citizenship
Note: If you don’t have one of the primary documents above there are some secondary forms of evidence of U.S. citizenship you can use. Your voter registration card, army discharge paper or social security card cannot be used.
• Early public records such as hospital birth certificate, census record, early school record or family bible record.
• Delayed birth certificate if one was not filed within first year of birth.
• Letter of No Record with early public records.
• Form DS-10: Birth Affidavit
• Foreign birth documents plus parent or parents’ citizenship evidence.
6- Present Proof of Identity
Use one of the primary forms of identification below when presenting your application. If applying outside of your state of residence you will need two of those listed below.
• Certificate of Naturalization
• Valid Driver’s License
• Current government or military ID.
Note: If you unable to present one of the primary forms above you must bring as much secondary forms of identification as possible. None of the documents listed below will be accepted when presented alone.
• Social Security Card
• Credit Card
• Library Card
• Employee ID
• A person who is willing to swear to your identity. They must have known you for at least 2 years, be a U.S. citizen, have a valid ID and fill out Form DS-71 in front of a passport agent.
7-Submit Copies of Proof of Identity
You need to bring a copy of the front and back of each form of ID that you intend to present. One page for the back and one for the front is fine. The copy must be on standard white 8 ½ x 11” paper and only contain images on one side with no other markings. The image can be enlarged but cannot be decreased in size.
8-Pay the Fees
Current passport fees may change in the future so if you want an exact figure it is best to check with U.S. State Department or an application center. A good rule of thumb is over $100 for getting a passport book and card. Any optional services will cost you.
9-Provide Two Passport Photos (Unattached)
There are several locations to get a fast photo for your passport (AAA, some Post Offices, drug stores, etc.). A lot of the time there will be a spot near the acceptance facility or passport agency. Common reasons for photos to be rejected are over exposure (too light), poorly focused, low quality, shadows on face, under exposure (too dark) and looking to the side. Follow the requirements below to make sure your photos are accepted.
• Your photos must be identical in appearance and in color (no black and white photos).
• Must be 2 x 2 inches in size.
• Taken within the past 6 months and showing current appearance.
• Printed on thin, quality photo paper.
• Full head and shoulders shot, front view looking straight ahead with a plain white background.
• Need to be taken in normal street clothes. No uniforms. No hats that hide the hairline. No nonprescription, yet cool sunglasses. Items that you wear everyday such as prescription glasses, hearing aids, wigs, etc. are OK to wear during the photo.
If you are a first time international traveler trying to figure out how to get a passport fast, then an article like this is invaluable. I really can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for people before the Internet; those who didn’t have access to instant knowledge like we do today. Let’s hope we never have to find out. I hope you found the information above useful in applying for your first adult passport.