Plan ahead: Applying for a passport can be a long process. Allow at least 10 weeks to process your application, or you could face steep fees and last-minute approvals that could have you sweating it out right before you’re supposed to depart.
Have important documents ready: You need proof of citizenship (i.e., a birth certificate) and proof of identity (i.e., your driver’s license or government-issued ID). Send in original copies of these documents with your passport application.
Get photo-ready: A passport photo must be provided with your application. Among other specifications, it needs to be a specific size (2x2 inches), taken within the last six months and feature a neutral expression. No smiling! While you can take the photo yourself, we recommend putting the smartphone away and having a professional passport photo service take it for you. Most chain drugstores offer this service at a very reasonable price.
Complete the paperwork: Fill out the DS-11 form and bring it to the nearest acceptance facility. You must apply in person if it’s your first passport and if you’re traveling with children under 16.
Calculate the fees: For adults, your first passport book will cost $135. A minor (under age 16) passport book is $105. Passport card options are less but can only be used when traveling to certain countries by land or sea.
Track the application: You can easily keep track of your application’s status online.
Your passport is valid for 10 years if it was issued after you turned 16 years old; if you were under 16 it is good for five years. Keep in mind the expiration date on your passport can be deceiving since many countries deny travelers entry if the passport expires in less than six months. To avoid any issues, consider renewing your passport nine months before the expiration date.