Your VIP pass to the world: how to apply for your first American passport

photo by CC user Damian Bariexca on Flickr

Ready to take the world by storm, but don’t have the documentation that will allow you to leave the good ole USA?

The American government requires all first-timers to apply in person at an office, and while that sounds intimidating, the process is simpler than you think.

This post will help you learn how to apply for your first American passport, so you can get out there and discover the best that the world has to offer…

Print out and fill in form DS-11

The first step of the application process involves downloading form DS-11 (specifically for first time applicants) from

Fill it out either online or by hand with vital information that includes data such as your name, social security number, address, etc.

The form will come with complete instructions on how to fill the form out properly, and the other steps required in the application process. Read them carefully before beginning, and refer back to them if you are confused at any point.

Get passport photos taken

The last section you’ll need to fill out on your DS-11 will require you to get a passport photo taken, so you can affix it to the square intended for your gorgeous mug.

While you might want to strike a pose when getting photographed, security regulations require that you maintain a neutral expression (a gentle, natural smile may be acceptable, but maintain a neutral face to avoid an untimely delay in your application), with both eyes open.

The photographer must shoot you with a white background behind, and the result must be printed in color and on photo quality paper.

Images should be sized so that they are 2 inches by 2 inches square. Finally, chronic procrastinators should be aware that photos must be taken within six months of your application, so get them done as close as possible to your appointment with your local state department office.

Obtain proof of US citizenship

Just so you know, both your mother and we think you’re American as apple pie, but government agencies aren’t as easily swayed, especially in the 21st century.

To prove your Murica-ness to the bureaucrat you will be seeing, bring your birth certificate, or your certificate of citizenship/naturalization with you when you go to submit your application for your first passport.

Apply in person

While you will have your birth certificate with you, you still need to satisfy the agent that you are who you say you are.

As such, make sure that you take a piece of government issued photo identification with you to your application meeting. For most, this can be accomplished with your driver’s license, but if you don’t have one, a certificate of citizenship/naturalization, government or military ID will suffice.

What’s more, you’ll also have to photocopy the front and back of your ID document for submission with your application so that they’ll have a copy of this proof for their files.

Finally, know how much you will owe the clerk and pay with exact change if using cash, or else you can pay the fee with a credit card, check, or money order. If using a check, know that it must draw on a financial institution in the USA, or it won’t be accepted.


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