How Americans Can Get a U.S. Passport

Has not having a passport kept you from taking a vacation to Canada? It's easier to get than you may think!

Here is some information to show you exactly how easy it is to get a United States passport book or card. Yes, there are TWO options!

The two options are:

  • Passport Book

  • Passport Card

The main difference between the two is if you travel internationally by air. If you travel internationally by airplane you must get the U.S. passport book. However, if you will only be traveling by land or sea, you can choose to get the cheaper U.S. passport card.

Remember that both the book and card are valid for 10 years, so if you think you may be flying to Europe to the Caribbean at any time in those next 10 years, you are better off getting the passport book. If you are sure you will only be traveling to Canada for a vacation by vehicle, then go ahead and get the passport card.

The passport card is the same size as a credit card so it’s nice to have in your wallet instead of the larger book. You can save $35 by applying for both. The fee to apply for both for first-time adults is currently $195 and $150 for children under 16.

Difference between US passport book and passport card

10 Steps to Apply For a United States Passport For the First Time

All Americans getting a passport for the first time or children under 16 who have an expired passport, need to apply in person.

1. Fill out form DS-11

The easiest way to fill out the form is to use the Form Filler Tool. If you have problems, then you can download a PDF. With either option, please print it off to bring with you when you apply. Complete all parts of the form but do not sign your form until asked to do so by a passport acceptance agent or employee. Print your form on single-sided paper. Double-check your information. You can apply for a passport booka passport card, or both documents using the same form.

2. Provide evidence of U.S. citizenship

It must be an original or certified paper copy. They will return your document in a separate mailing up to 8 weeks after you receive the new passport.

3. Bring a photocopy of U.S. citizenship evidence

The black & white photocopy should be legible, on white 8.5" x 11" paper, and single-sided.

4. Present ID

You must show one of the following IDs.

  • Valid or expired, undamaged U.S. passport book or passport card
  • In-state, fully valid driver's license or enhanced driver's license with photo
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • Government employee ID (city, county, state, or federal)
  • U.S. military or military dependent ID
  • Current (valid) foreign passport
  • Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular ID) - commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant
  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) - commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant
  • Trusted Traveler IDs (including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards)
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards and Native American tribal photo IDs
  • Note: you may be asked to present an additional ID when presenting one of these three documents: 1) In-state, fully valid learner's permit with photo, 2) In-state, fully valid non-driver ID with photo, or 3) temporary driver's license with photo.

5. Bring a photocopy of ID

Submit a photocopy of the front (and back, if there is information on the back) of each ID you present when you apply. The photocopy should be legible, on white 8.5" x 11" paper, black & white, and single-sided.

6. Determine any special circumstances

If any of the below categories apply to you, you may have additional requirements for your passport application. Please see the relevant page for more information.

7. Provide a photo

You must provide one photo with your application. To avoid processing delays, be sure your photo meets all photo requirements.

8. Calculate Fees

Visit this page to calculate your passport fees in one of three ways. The fee calculator seems easy to use. You will pay a portion to the U.S. Department of State and a portion to the Acceptance Facility.  

9. Find a location to apply and submit your completed application

You must submit your completed application, supporting documents, photo, and fees, in person at a passport acceptance facility. Check with the facility to see if you need to make an appointment. You may be eligible to make an appointment to apply in person at a passport agency if you are traveling soon. Please see Get My Passport Fast for more information.

10. Track your application status

You can subscribe to email updates about your application status and learn more about each status update.

Note: It may take two weeks from the date you apply until your application status is "In Process." If your passport status update says “Not Available,” your application and supporting documents are safely on their way to the passport office.

Get a US Passport Book or Card

8 Steps to Renew Your Passport

Follow these steps to renew your passport by mail and track your status:

  1. Confirm you meet the requirements
  2. Fill out your form online and print it
  3. Submit your most recent passport
  4. Submit other documents (if you are changing your name)
  5. Provide a photo
  6. Calculate fees
  7. Mail application and documents
  8. Enroll in email updates

Getting a New Passport for a Child: You cannot renew a passport for a child under age 16. You must apply again in person using Form DS-11.

Renewing a Passport Outside the United States: Learn how to renew your U.S. passport if you live in a foreign country.

Watch this video to learn if you can renew your passport by mail.

How long will it take for me to receive my passport?

Passports generally are sent out within 6-8 weeks. So if you are planning a summer vacation to Canada, you should be applying for a passport now. You can have it expedited which will take around 2-3 weeks. Check the current processing times here

If you need more information on getting a U.S. passport, please visit Travel.State.Gov, read their FAQs page, or contact the U.S. Department of State

If you are a Canadian and would like to get a Canadian passport, please visit Canada.ca.

We hope to see you soon in Ontario's Sunset Country

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Ontario's Sunset Country has numerous places to explore!
About Erin Rody

I grew up on Black Sturgeon Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I am a staff writer for the Sunset Country Travel Association. Through my articles I hope to entice you to visit the wonderful region I call home. We are all about outdoor adventure; with 70,000 lakes and rivers and a whole lot of forests how can we not be? Whether you like to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, boat or go camping, Sunset Country has something for you. Enjoy!

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