For anyone who has never traveled abroad previously, applying for a U.S. passport can be viewed as a difficult and somewhat scary process. The good news is that it does not have to be complicated. Individuals seeking their first passport just need to follow the simple guidelines available in many places online.

How Long Does it Take?

It can require as long as six months from the beginning of the application process until you actually receive the passport. You should begin the process in advance of when you plan to travel to avoid the stress of wondering where the passport is. The length of the application process may be affected by where you live or where your offshore travel will take you. It can take longer during some seasons than others, just because of the work flow. Expedited passports are available but will cost more.

Find the Nearest Passport Agency

The application process for a passport usually begins at a passport application facility. These offices can be located in post offices, county officials' offices, or libraries. In metropolitan areas, there may be an office that only deals with passport applications. When you prepare to apply, you will need to make an appointment to process your application form. A preliminary telephone call is an excellent idea.

The Application Form

The DS-11 is the passport application document that must be completed. You can find this and other forms at the Passport Office or by searching online. Forms must be printed, rather than in cursive writing, and must be completed in black ink. The easiest way to comply with these regulations is to fill in the form online, print out a copy or two and take it with you. If you maintain an extra copy, you can refer to it if needed during the balance of the application process.

Additional Documentation

Documentation to prove identity is a part of the passport application process. You must submit copies of photo identification such as a driver's license or state ID card. Alternative photo documentation could be an employee badge or military identification. Birth certificates needed for identification must be signed and certified and have a government seal.

Photos with Passport

A two-inch by two-inch photo must be included with your other documentation and application. Some passport agencies are able to take passport photos at the time you come in for your appointment. Other individuals can use their digital cameras and quality photo printers to prepare photos in the correct format.


Occasionally a passport application will be denied. If you know in advance that you owe the IRS back taxes or that you owe more than $2,500 in child support payments, you should be certain that the issues are resolved before your application is submitted. Failure to do so could mean you can't make your trip.

Applying For A Passport is just part of the preparation process when traveling internationally. If you remember to complete the pass port application form according to instructions and submit them to the proper agency, you should have no problem receiving your passport in time to enjoy your travel. You will need to remit the necessary payments and fees along with your documentation.

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