What is a No-Fee Passport?

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

No-fee doesn't mean no-requirements: Learn more about this passport

What is a No-Fee Passport?

There's no price better than free, and if you're traveling internationally on behalf of the U.S. government, chances are good you'll qualify. There's a few other reasons you can get a no-fee passport. Here's how to figure out whether or not you must write a check.

What's a no-fee passport?

A no-fee or special issuance passport lets you travel overseas for official government business. You can qualify for one if you're in the military, have a government job that requires traveling out-of-country or are a dependent approved to accompany someone who is. Department of State personnel, military, federal government agencies and the Peace Corps are some instances in which you might qualify for a special issuance passport. You might also qualify if a loved one is buried at an overseas military cemetery or memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing.

If it's free, why a fee?

A special issuance passport is only no-fee in the respect of not having to pay the passport fee. You must still pay a $25 execution fee to receive your passport. An execution fee reimburses the agency in the event that you are asked to appear in person to have an agent witness your signature. It is not a mailing fee, nor is it optional.

Are there restrictions?

Special issuance passports are valid only when you are traveling on official government business. That means you can't use it to visit an exotic destination for pleasure purposes. For that, you need a regular passport for which you'll pay the normal fees. It's perfectly legal to have two passports at the same time when one is a special issuance passport.

How do I get one?

Contact the travel office associated with the government agency you work for to start an application. The special issuance is picked up by your office or delivered to the travel office, not to you as an individual.

The process is different if you're planning to visit the grave or memorial of an immediate family member. First, get a letter from the American Battle Monuments division naming your deceased family member, your relationship and where she's buried or memorialized in a foreign country. You'll submit this letter to the U. S. Department of State Passport Office along with your other application materials. Your special issuance passport comes directly to you in this instance and remains valid for five years.

What else should I know about special issuance passports?

  • There are no special issuance passport cards. You'll only receive a book. 
  • Each dependent accompanying you on official travel must have his own special issuance passport. 
  • Besides having a governmental reason for a special issuance passport, you must fulfill all the normal requirements, such as supplying proof of citizenship and a passport photo. 

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.