How To Apply For A Passport

We just got back from two trips requiring our passports and mine is about to expire in less than 2 weeks. Both times the immigration officer made me aware of that, and I let them know I'm on it and have my new picture at home ready to renew upon return.
It's actually pretty easy these days to get your passport, if you're a US citizen that is. You might think that obtaining, renewing or updating a passport would be a hassle as most dealings with the government are, but they've made it simple. Everything you need to know can be found online at the  U.S. Dept of State website.
To get your first passport
To get your first passport, you'll have to show up in person. Make an appointment at an acceptance facility or passport agency; search for the one closest to you here. You likely live near a facility where you can get a passport. Many post offices and even some public libraries can accept passport applications. Arrive at your passport agency with:
• Your filled-in DS-11 application form.
• Evidence of U.S. citizenship. Find a list of acceptable documents here.
• Valid identification. Find a list of acceptable ID here.
• A photocopy of the front and back of the identification you're bringing on clean, white 8½" x 11" paper.
• Your application fee. For a first-time adult passport, the total fee is $135.
• Passport photos. You can read more about the specifications for passport photos here. But most major drug stores, such as Walgreens or CVS, will sell appropriately sized passport photos that comply with government standards; this makes things a little easier.
Or you can go online to ePassportPhoto and submit your own digital print and they will size it - all for free (this is what we did). It will size 6 2x2 identical face shots on one print. But Walgreens and CVS will not print passport photos because they offer the service, so you need to delete 5 of these and just print one 2x2 per print and they won't notice it and it pass the muster. Just wait for a sale where they offer free prints and submit your digital picture online for free to pick up later that day.
Renewing a passport
You have two options here: Either you have your old passport or you don't. If the former's true, you can apply through the mail as long as your most recent passport is undamaged, was issued when you were at least 16 years old, and isn't more than 15 years old. If you are nodding "yes" to all of that, simply mail in your old passport with the required documents and photos, and you'll receive a new one in the mail in roughly four to six weeks. (Don't worry. You'll get your old passport back.) Here's what you need: Form DS-82, your renewal fee ($110 for an adult), passport photos, and your old passport. Get more information about renewing a passport through the mail here.
Keep in mind that if you've changed your name since your last passport was issued, include an original certificate or court order that documents this; those without such papers must apply for a renewal in person.
Don't have your old passport? Then you can't get a passport renewed by mail. Head to a passport agency in person.
You can check the status of a pending passport application here.
Passports for kids
For children ages 15 and younger, the fees and requirements for getting a passport are a little different than those for adults. Essentially, parents need to provide identification in addition to proof that they are legal guardians for child applicants. Guardians in two-parent households must appear together with the young applicants or provide a notarized statement of consent from the absentee adult. Single parents must appear in person as well. And all parents must show proof of legal guardianship; this would include a birth certificate or a court order.
A passport for a minor costs $105. And the usual—Form DS-11, a standard passport photo, and the appropriate identification for parent(s) and child—must be brought to your local passport office. Read more about getting a passport for a child here.

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