Obtaining a Passport

how to get a passport
US Pasaporte

It used to be that travelers to Mexico could cross and recross the border with little more than a driver’s license.  Today, of course, passports are a must for getting back into the U.S.  When crossing the border, customs officials must be presented with a passport or passport card or the traveler will not be allowed re-entry to the United States.

Passport Cards

The traditional passport book is good for ten years for adults and five years for minors before renewal is necessary.  A passport card can be conveniently stored in a wallet, unlike the book.  The card can be used to reenter the U.S. from the following approved locations: Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean Islands.  Passport cards are less expensive than their booklet counterparts which are used throughout the world.

Where to get one?

There are well over 9,000 facilities throughout the U.S. where citizens can go to apply including U.S. Post Offices.  In some cases, federal courts, municipal offices, and even some public libraries have been authorized to handle applications.  Applicants must apply in person for their first U.S. passport.  The DS-11 form must be completed in person at one of these authorized locations.  Applicants will be asked to present proof of citizenship such as:

  • a city, state, or county-issued birth certificate
  • a consular report of birth abroad (or a certification of birth)
  • a certificate of naturalization
  • a certificate of U.S. citizenship

Moreover, other forms of identification must also be presented for proof of identity such as:

  • a valid driver’s license
  • a certificate of naturalization
  • a valid (and current) government ID
  • a current military ID

For renewing a passport, the previously issued passport may also suffice as an accepted form of identification.


Applicants must also provide an accepted photo at the time of their application.  The State Department has very specific stipulations regarding photos so it is ideal to visit their website for this information:

how to get a passport

Information regarding photos can also be obtained from U.S. Post Offices or other participating passport agencies.  Many offices that issue passports, like the post office, also provide photographing services for issuance.


Along with the fee for your photo, applicants can expect to pay a total of $135 if they are aged sixteen or older and it is their first passport.  A card, on the other hand, will cost $55.  Applicants can visit the State Department website for more information regarding passport fees.

More Information

Renewing can usually be done by mail, but applicants should be sure they follow the requirements found on the State Department website.  Under certain conditions (the old book is damaged or lost) a person will have to reapply in person for their replacement book).  Also, keep in mind that cards, while a more inexpensive option, work fine for crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico; however, they do not allow for border crossings throughout the world like a traditional passport booklet.

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