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Passport FAQ

From how long renewing your passport will take to how much one will cost, our Passport FAQ is helpful for seasoned travelers and adventure newbies alike.

passport faq

(Photo: Montri Thipsorn / Shutterstock)

Adventuring abroad can be stressful. You want to make sure you follow all the rules and regulations. You pack your boarding passes and your luggage carefully, and you check and double check and check again to make sure you have your passport.

Despite being a small and incredibly nonthreatening figure, a passport and the paperwork involved in getting one can cause a lot of anxiety, but if you have all of your ducks in a row, getting one should be no problem.

Here are some common passport FAQs that new international travelers should be familiar with.

What is a passport for?

A passport is a document that allows the holder to travel internationally. It is also occasionally used as a means of identification, and often more trusted than other forms of ID. A passport is absolutely necessary for travel to or from the U.S.

Where do I get a passport?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is encouraging applicants to apply for a passport by mail when possible. However, most passport acceptance facilities, such as a designated local post offices, public libraries and other state, county, township or municipal government offices, are open and accepting in-person applications. Find one near you.

In-person appointments at passport agencies and centers are being offered only to travelers with life-or-death emergencies who need expedited passports.

You can mail your passport paperwork to the closest National Passport Processing Center. Through USPS, of course.

  • If you are getting a new passport or a passport for a child, you will need the DS-11 form.
  • If you are renewing your passport, you will need the DS-82 form.
  • If you are changing your passport info, such as spelling or name change, you will need the DS-5504 form.
passpoart FAQ

A passport is required for any air travel outside the U.S. (Photo: Montri Thipsorn / Shutterstock)

How much does it cost?

For a child’s passport book (DS-11), the application fee is $80 and the processing fee is $35. For an adult’s first passport (DS-11), the application fee is $110 and the processing fee is $35. For an adult passport renewal (DS-82), the application fee is $110 and there is no processing fee.

What do I need to bring with me to get a passport?

An important inclusion on any passport FAQ list is a completed DS- form, which you can download from travel.state.gov. There are form-fillable PDF versions as well as printable versions  you can fill out by hand.

You will also need evidence of U.S. citizenship such as a valid or expired U.S. passport, a U.S. birth certificate, a consular report of Birth Abroad, a Certificate of Naturalization or a Certificate of Citizenship. Any one of these official documents will do.

The passport office will also require a photocopy of the front and back of your chosen document to keep for their files.

At the passport office, you will need to present ID, such as an undamaged U.S. passport, a driver’s license, a certificate of naturalization or citizenship, a government employee ID, a U.S. military or military-dependent ID, a valid foreign passport or Mexican Consular Identification. Naturally, they will require a photocopy of the front and back of your ID as well.

You need to provide a passport photo that meets U.S. passport photo requirements, such as sizing, background and facial expression.

If you have a special circumstance, you might also need accompanying paperwork. Take a look at the comprehensive list of special circumstance documents at travel.state.gov.

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How do passport photographs work?

It is not really recommended to take a passport photo yourself, as the rules and regulations are so strict. Some post offices and pharmacies offer passport photo services. Fortunately, in addition to this passport FAQ, AAA also offers passport photo services at many branch locations, making the process much easier for AAA members.

In a passport photo, your head must be facing the camera with a neutral facial expression. You cannot be taking up too much or too little of the frame, and you must be wearing “neutral clothing.” You have to be standing in front of a plain white background, with no glasses and no non-religious hat or head coverings. The shadows can’t even be too extreme. The photo must have been taken within the past six months, and it must be printed in color. The dimensions are 2 x 2 inches.

Can I retake my picture?

The only way to change the photo on your passport is to renew your entire passport with a DS-82 form and a new picture. Usually, you don’t have to change your picture unless your appearance has drastically changed since the time of the last photo. Unless you turn purple or fall into a vat of radioactive slime, most physical changes over the course of 10 years are considered very minor by Border Patrol agents.

What passport services does AAA offer?

As noted above, AAA branch offices have passport and immigration photo services, with special pricing for AAA members. Though AAA does not issue passports or process passport applications, DS- forms are available at all branch offices. AAA branch offices can also help you with many passport FAQs in person.

How long does it take to get a passport?

It takes approximately 10 to 12 weeks for routine service.

Can I rush my passport to get it faster?

You can get an expedited passport within four to six weeks by mail or by visiting an acceptance facility.

Travelers with a life-or-death emergency can make an appointment at a passport agency or center to receive a passport within within 72 hours. You still have to do all of the paperwork, and you have to present proof of the emergency.

Stay away from paying a private company to expedite your passport for you. Nine times out of 10, they’re scams that take just as long as the normal process. The fastest way to get a passport is to do so in person at your region’s passport agency.

How long does my passport last?

Another good question for this passport FAQ. If you were 15 or younger when you received it, it will last five years. If you were 16 or older when you received it, it will last 10 years.

How do I correct or change information on my passport?

If you require a correction in assigned gender, you must re-apply using form DS-11. You will need to present photo ID, a new passport photo, proof of your legal name change and a medical certificate that states you are either in the process of transitioning or have already transitioned

If you are changing your name, you must re-apply using form DS-5504. You will need to present your old passport, an original or certified document of your name change and a new passport photo.

To correct a data or printing error, you must use form DS-5504. You will need your incorrect passport, a passport photo and evidence of error. There are usually no fees to correct such errors.

Does my child need a passport for international travel?

Yes. It does not matter how old they are. They need one.

Both parents must be present to sign the passport application, or the absent parent or guardian can sign a statement of consent. The child also needs to appear with the parents in person for the application.

Do I need a passport to go to Mexico or Canada?

Yes. You need a passport for international travel even within North America. You can also use a passport card if you are traveling by land or sea. New York residents can use a DMV-issued Enhanced Driver License to return to the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico and some countries in the Caribbean.

Starting in 2021, a passport or Real ID will be needed to fly domestically. Here’s everything you need to know about the new law.

What is a passport card?

A passport card is a smaller and less expensive version of a passport. It is about the same size as a driver’s license. It is meant for people who live near borders and regularly have to cross them. Passport cards are only applicable for travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. They cannot be used on any international flights – only by land or sea.

What happens if my passport gets stolen or lost while abroad?

Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and tell the consular officer about your lost or stolen passport. Provide staff with your travel details so that they can help you get a new passport. Click here for more tips on dealing with travel mishaps.

You will need a new passport photo, ID, evidence of U.S. citizenship, a travel itinerary, a DS-11 passport application, a DS-64 statement regarding a lost or stolen passport, a police report if available or applicable and the normal passport fees.

Travel insurance may help if your passport is lost or stolen. Learn more about AAA Northeast’s Travel Protection Plan with Allianz.

What are your favorite passport tips and tricks? Do you have any other inclusions for this passport FAQ? Let us know in the comments. 

Need a new passport photo? Get your picture taken at a AAA branch locationFind a branch near you

This post was last updated on Oct. 5, 2020. 

Comments
    • Sarah H.

      Good question, Nancy!

      From the State Department:

      “You can renew by mail using Form DS-82 if your most recent passport:

      -Is submitted with your application
      -Is undamaged (other than normal “wear and tear”)
      -Was issued when you were age 16 or older
      -Was issued within the last 15 years
      -Was issued in your current name (or you can document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)”

      Hope that helps!

      – Sarah

  • Louis M.

    I think the following point is important.
    Even though your passport is technically valid for 10 years the last 6 months before it expires following statement applies.
    Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

    Lou

  • Raymond F.

    Don’t forget: you cannot travel to certain countries with your passport if it is going to expire in 6 months.

    Also, you can only renew without a processing fee if it expired less than 5 years; otherwise you have to re-apply with a DS-11

  • Thomas S.

    The following was copied from the travel.state.gov website today, Sept 30, 2020:

    “September 28, 2020

    “You can now apply for routine service and expect to receive a passport in 10-12 weeks. You also have the option of paying an additional $60 for expedited service to receive your passport in 4-6 weeks.

    “These processing times apply to applications submitted by mail and in-person at an acceptance facility in your community. Most acceptance facilities such as post offices, clerks of court, and libraries are open and accepting passport applications. We encourage you to apply by mail when possible because it is a safe, contactless option for certain services.

    “All of our agencies and centers are processing passport applications. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our workforce and customers, we currently are limiting in-person appointments at our agencies and centers to customers who are traveling internationally in the next 72 hours (3 business days) due to a life-or-death emergency. ”

    The website appears to have been updated on Sept. 28…so it is the go-to-place for the most recent information, thereby making some of the information above outdated now.

    Tomm

    • Dana L.

      Hi Thomas!
      Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. We’ve updated the story and will do so periodically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      Thanks for reading!
      Dana L.

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