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Help! I'm Applying for a U.S. Passport for the First Time.

How to Apply for a U.S. Passport | The Pocket Palette

I love the weeks surrounding New Year's Day. People are optimistic, hopeful, and determined to set big goals for the next turn around the sun. A popular topic within the Pocket Palette community is of course, travel. So while searching the best #travelgoals on Insta, we thought about how important it is to have a passport.

Don’t have one? That’s okay, January is the best time to get one. Why? Because that means you'll have the rest of the year to travel, duh.  We made a little guide to make sure you have everything you need to get yours. 

Be warned, applying for a passport isn't difficult, but you will be dealing with the Post Office and the State Department which means you should practice being patient, and humble, and zen, and....

Step One: Gather your Documents

  1. First time applying? You will need this application - Form DS-11. Make sure it’s UNSIGNED when you bring it to the Post Office which we will go over again in steps 2 and 3.
  2. You will need proof of U.S. citizenship with a photocopy. Photocopies need to be single-sided on a standard 8.5 x 11in white piece of paper in black and white ink. No color. ) Refer to this list to find acceptable forms of proof (it's #2 on the list).
  3. You will also need proof of identity and photocopy. Refer to this list to find acceptable forms of proof (its #4 on the list). Yes, this is different than step 2. 
  4. Gather up your coins, because you will need to pay passport fees. For the Post Office, $35 for an acceptance fee or $50 if photos are needed. For the State Department, price varies depending on circumstances. In total, passport fees can range from $110 - $150. Refer to the links to get exact costs.

NOTE: Make sure you bring both the original and photocopies of your proof of identity/ U.S. Citizenship to the Post Office when you submit your application.

Step Two: Prepare your Application

  1. Complete the Form DS-11 available on the State Department website. There will be two options, you can either print the PDF and manually write out the information, or you can do the form filler option and then print from the website. REMEMBER, DO NOT SIGN THE FORM.
  2. DO NOT SIGN YOUR APPLICATION until you arrive at the Post Office. A postal employee must witness your signature. 
  3. Selfie time! You can take the passport photo yourself, but they need to meet all requirements. The Post Office photo service will 100% of the time be an acceptable photo. Verify that your local Post Office does take passport photos, because not all do. You can confirm with a quick phone call and cross your fingers that you get a decent pic.
  4. Again, make sure you have a photocopy of your proof of identity and U.S. Citizenship documents. Single-sided on a standard 8.5x11in white piece of paper in black and white. No color. 

Wait, how much will this cost me again?Calculate your fees here. You will have to pay Post Office fees when you go in person, and State Department fees are mailed with your application.

Step Three: Go to the Post Office

  1. Find a Post Office using this USPS locater. Post Offices have set hours for passport services and may require an appointment. This USPS locator tool will help you find one with passport services.
  2. Once you have found a Post Office and made your appointment, just make sure you have your DS-11 form, your documents, and fees ready when you go.


That's it! Not too bad, right? Honestly, the hardest part is remembering to bring everything with you to the Post Office.

When you do need to renew your passport you can do it by mail, just make sure to do it nine months before the expiration date. You have to because of reasons. For one, to avoid costly expedited costs, second, some countries require passports to remain valid for up to 6 months after travel, and lastly, it can take up to three months to process a passport renewal application. So best to be on the safe side and get it done early.

If you have any other questions about how to apply for a U.S. Passport, please refer to the State Department website. 


Safe travels and happy 2019!