How to Apply for a Passport for the First Time

By Meg Jernigan

Get ready for international travel with this easy passport application guide

How to Apply for a Passport for the First Time

Your dreams of a trip abroad have come to fruition, but you don’t have a passport. Fill out a form DS-11 online, print a PDF of the form or head to a passport office to apply for a passport. You’ll need to gather your documentation to take with you, even if you’ve filled out the form online, and you'll need to provide a suitable photograph to complete the process.

It’s my first time

If you’re applying for the first time, rather than renewing an existing passport, you’ll need proof of citizenship and proof of identity. If, for some reason, you don’t have a Social Security number, the passport agency will require you to swear you’ve never been issued one. Proof of citizenship can be an original or certified birth certificate or a certificate of citizenship or naturalization. You can establish identity with a driver’s license, government ID, military ID or valid foreign passport. Check the State Department website for the specific guidelines for passport photos, and don’t sign the application until you’re in front of the passport agent.

How much does it cost?

You can apply for a passport book, passport card or both. If you’re 16 or older, the passport application fee is $110. A passport card, used by citizens who travel frequently to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, costs $30, and the combination passport and passport card is $140. First-timers also pay a $25 execution fee. Children under 16 pay lower fees.

If you need to expedite your application to get it faster than the standard six to eight weeks, you’ll pay an additional $60. Overnight delivery costs $15.45. Passport acceptance facilities don’t take credit or debit cards. You’ll need two checks or money orders – one for the application fee, and one for the execution fee. Some other passport facilities, such as post offices, may take cash or credit cards.

What else do I need to know?

There are a couple of things you can do if you can't wait the standard six to eight weeks for your passport. Depending on the level of expediting you choose, you can have your passport from eight days to three weeks from your application date. You may need to provide proof, such as airline tickets, that you must have your passport quickly. If you’ve left things to the last minute, contact one of the private companies that, for a much higher fee, promises to get your new passport to you within a few days.

If you’re changing your gender designation, you’ll need medical certification, and depending on where you are in the process, you may receive a limited-validity passport.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.