Apply For Your First US Passport: The ULTIMATE Step-By-Step Guide!

Watch on YouTube

Video Description

Apply For Your First US Passport: The ULTIMATE Step-By-Step Guide!

Welcome to the ultimate step-by-step guide to applying for your US passport. This guide is for those of you who are applying for the very first time, especially for those of you out there who have just become US citizens. We are going to go over every step of this process, including filling out the form to what you should do once your passport arrives in the mail. We are also going to talk about how to get your passport as fast as possible, including one way where you may be able to get your passport in as little as 24 hours.

The first step to getting your US passport is filling out the right form.

Fill Out the DS-11 Form

New applicants are required to submit the form DS-11, which you can download online or find in your packet that you receive at your citizenship ceremony. However, the Department of State recommends that you use their online filing tool, which automatically creates a completed DS-11 for you. Why?

Because this prevents you from making mistakes and it also generates a unique barcode on your application that the passport acceptance facility can easily scan, speeding up the process so that you can get your passport back as soon as possible.

I will include a link to that online filing tool here. I will also include a link to the PDF version of the form for those of you who do want to fill it out by hand.

And don't worry, you will still be able to follow along this video even if you are filling out the form DS-11 by hand because all of the fields in the form filler tool are exactly the same as on the DS-11. When you click the link to the form filler tool, you first need to check the box acknowledging that you have read the disclaimer, then click submit.

On the next screen, choose fill out online and print and it will begin asking you the questions starting with your basic information like your name, date of birth, gender, and occupation.

All the fields with the red star next to them are required. If you don't have an answer for any required question, then write N/A. Next is your contact information including your address, preferred method of communication, and your phone number. After that are your travel plans, if you have any.

If not, you can leave this part blank. Then it will ask you for the name and address of your emergency contact, if you have one. When it asks if you have ever been issued a passport before, select none.

Next, you'll provide the details of your parents and spouse including their names, dates of birth, and places of birth. And finally, you will list all the names that you have ever used, including those that you have used outside of the United States.

Once you finish filling out all these fields, it will have you review all of your answers to make sure that you did not make any mistakes. When you are satisfied that everything is correct, click next and it will give you various options for your passport and the type of service that you require.

The passport options include passport book for $130, passport card for $30, and passport book and card for $160. If you just want a standard passport, then you would choose passport book for $130. And if you plan on doing a lot of traveling out of the United States, then check the box underneath that says large book non-standard.

This will put more pages inside of your passport book so that when you get all of those wonderful stamps from traveling back and forth from and into the United States, you will not use up your book.

And you can select this at no additional cost!

If you even think that there will be a chance that you do a lot of international travel, then I recommend checking this box because you will not be able to add pages to your passport at a later date.

The other option is a passport card, which is a wallet-sized ID that is a convenient and less expensive alternative to the passport book. And just like a passport, the passport card is an accepted alternative to the state-issued real ID that will be required to fly domestically starting May 7th, 2025. You can also use the passport card to get a real ID if you do eventually want to apply for one.

The downside of a passport card is that you cannot use it for all of your international travel. It can only be used to re-enter the United States at land border crossings and seaports of entries from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda.

So if you do plan to travel to other destinations besides these outside of the United States, then it is most preferred that you apply for a passport book as well. As far as size goes, the US passport book measures 5 inches by 3.5 inches when closed, or 127 millimeters by 89 millimeters in the metric system. The passport card is considerably smaller at about 3 and 1/3 inches by 2 and 1/8 inches, or 84 millimeters by 54 millimeters. It's basically the size of a credit card and it is designed to fit conveniently inside of your wallet.

And if you have the money to afford both, go ahead and apply for them both because you never know when one might come in handy. The next option is the processing method that you want. It is recommended that you choose routine service if your travel plans are 8 weeks or more and expedited if you plan on traveling within less than 8 weeks. According to the Department of State's website, routine service is approximately 6 to 8 weeks and expedited service is around 2 to 3 weeks.

However, these processing times do not include the time that it will take to mail everything back and forth between the Department of State. It can add up to 2 weeks for your application to be sent to the State Department and another 2 weeks to get your passport back from them. So keep this in mind when deciding which processing option to use.

The third option that says "expedited at agency service"  is for those who have urgent travel within 14 calendar days. Do not choose this option unless you have first called the National Passport Information Center and made an appointment to appear at a passport agency.

A passport agency is operated by the U.S. Department of State and is different from a passport acceptance facility, which is typically a place like a post office or a library. I'll explain more about the difference between the two in just a moment as well as your other options for expediting the case.

But for now, if you have to travel internationally within the next 14 days, then give the Passport Information Center a phone call before finishing your DS-11. Time is of the essence and you will want to get an appointment as soon as possible.

You can contact them at 1-877-487-2778.

And finally, you will choose your delivery method.

As we just discussed, standard delivery can take as long as 2 weeks each way. So if you want to get your passport back sooner rather than later, consider paying $19.53 for one to two day delivery.

The last checkbox that you will see here is for a file search, which is for those who previously had a U.S. passport or consular reported birth abroad, which probably isn't you if this is your first time applying for a U.S. passport.

Once you have made your selections, click Next and you'll be taken to a page with instructions on how to submit your form along with a button to print yours with all of the information that you have provided.

Note that this website will not save your information once you close the window. So it's important that you click the Print button and open the form on your computer before doing so. It should open in a program like Adobe Acrobat where you can then print a copy or save it to your hard drive.

Before you do so, double check all of your information because once you do this, you will not be able to make any changes to your application. The barcode on your application stores all of your answers and cannot be changed. So if you find a mistake after you print your form, you will have to start all over again and fill out a new form.

Some important things to keep in mind when filing out your DS-11: Accuracy is key! If you make a mistake on your form, then it will significantly delay your passport. Do not leave any required fields blank. If you do not have an answer to a question, make sure to fill it out with N/A.

Be sure to include your social security number because a lot of applicants will leave this blank. And do not sign your DS-11 after you print. You are required to sign this form in front of a passport acceptance agent. So wait until you actually appear in front of one, and wait until they instruct you to sign.

Schedule Your Appointment

Your next step is to schedule your appointment at a passport acceptance facility or passport agency. Because this is your first passport, you are not allowed to apply by mail. So you must bring your DS-11 and all of your supporting documents with you in person.

Annoying, I know. If you are requesting the routine or normal expedited service, you can go to any of the more than 7,000 passport acceptance facilities around the country to apply. These are often located in buildings such as post offices, libraries, universities, and local government offices.

You can find one near you by going to, typing in your zip code, and clicking search. Note that if you check the box that says "photo on site", it will only show you locations that can take your passport photo for you, which can save you time.

However, if you take your own passport photos by yourself at a proper photo facility, then you can have more options for more locations. Choose the location where you want to schedule your appointment and it will give you their contact information. You can then call the facility with this information to make an appointment or you can just show up during the hours they hold walk-in services.

Many of these facilities are in post offices, so you can use the United States Postal Service Scheduler Tool at to set up your appointment. Similar to the scheduler tool for the Department of State, you will select your location and then get a list of facilities to choose from. Pick the location that you want to choose and follow the instructions to set up your appointment.

If you are requesting the "Expedited At Agency" service because you have urgent international travel within the next 14 calendar days, then you need to schedule an appointment at one of the 26 passport agencies around the country.

Again, you can set up that appointment by calling the number I just provided to you or by going to and scheduling online. It will ask you to provide proof of travel before finding you an agency for an appointment. Note that you do not have to go to a passport agency in your state.

You can actually go to any passport agency around the country that has an appointment available to you. And, in fact, sometimes when time is of the essence, this is the way to go. In order to get that passport, you may actually have to buy a plane ticket to go to a different state for your appointment, but that is up to you and the needs that you have.

And finally, if you are overseas, you'll likely need to apply for your passport in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

I'll include a link to that page for more instructions for those of you that happen to be outside of the United States.

Prepare Your Documents

The next step is to prepare all the documents that you need to bring with you to the appointment starting with your proof of citizenship. If you are born inside of the United States and this is your first passport, then you want to provide a birth certificate that looks like this:

It should include the city, country, or state of birth, your full name, date of birth, and place of birth, your parents full names, the signature of the city, county, or state registrar, the date filed with the registrar's office, and the seal or stamp of the city, country, or state which issued it.

If you were born outside of the United States and this is your first passport, then you can provide your certificate of naturalization as proof of citizenship. And if you were born outside of the United States but were born as a U.S. citizen, then you can provide your consular report of birth abroad.

Whichever one you bring, you must take the original, along with the black and white, photocopy. They will not accept a digital copy, so make sure you bring the original and photocopy.

Note that when you bring your original proof of citizenship to your appointment, they will mail it off to the Department of State while your passport is being processed, so make sure that you will not need it for anything else during this process. You likely will not receive your proof of citizenship back until after you get your passport.

The State Department also often sends it in two separate mailings, so do not be alarmed if you get your passport at one time and your certificate of naturalization back at a separate time. But you should get both back within eight weeks.

The next document that you need to bring with you is a valid form of photo ID.

The acceptable forms of IDs are listed on the Department of State's website, and while it includes a certificate of naturalization in the list, that does not mean that you can use it for both your proof of citizenship and for your proof of ID. In fact, you need to have two separate things.

You do need to bring one of the forms of ID from the list, such as an in-state ID or driver's license. And as with your proof of citizenship, you'll also want to bring a photocopy of the front and back of this ID. Each photocopy should only be on one side of the paper, so don't photocopy the front on one side and the back on the other.

And unlike the proof of citizenship, they will not keep your ID while they process your passport, so no need to worry about not having your driver's license for eight weeks. If you have more questions about providing an ID or want to look through the list of accessible options, follow the link to the Department of State's website above.

The next thing you will need to bring with you is a valid passport photo.

If you are going to a passport acceptance facility that will take your photo for you, then you don't need to worry about this step.

Most locations will charge you $10 to $15 per photo, and if you are planning to do this, be sure to contact them in advance to confirm the fee and make sure that they can in fact do it.

You don't want to go all the way over there only to discover that it cannot be done. You can also get your passport photo taken at any location that does passport photos, or even you can do it by yourself in your home if you have a photo printer.

Make sure you review the photo requirements carefully if you're taking your own picture because you must meet very specific requirements. And if you are planning on expediting your case, the last document that you need to bring with you is the proof of your international travel. The best proof is going to be your plane ticket.

Make sure your ticket shows your name, travel date, and your destination. And also double check that in fact you do show a departure date within the next 14 days.

Prepare Your Fee

Next, you will want to make sure that you prepare the correct fee. If you look at the list of passport fees on the State Department's website, they list every possible fee you might pay. For first-time adult passport books, you will want to prepare a fee of $130 and $35 for the execution fee. If you are planning on expediting your application, then you will pay an extra $60 for the expedite fee, and if you choose one two-day delivery, then it is an additional $19.53.

Note that the $35 goes to the Passport Acceptance Facility and all other fees go to the State Department. That means that if you are writing a check or preparing a money order, one will be made out to the U.S. Department of State and the other will be written out to the Passport Acceptance Facility.

When preparing a payment to the State Department, make sure you include your full name and date of birth on the memo line of the check or money order.

If you are still unsure about what fees you should pay, there is an official fee calculator that you can use online.

If you are applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility, the forms of payment that the Department of State accepts includes personal checks, money orders, and cashier's checks.

Most Passport Acceptance Facilities do the same, but be sure to contact yours in advance to confirm what form of payment they accept before heading for your appointment. And while you have them on the phone, ask how much they charge to take your passport photo, and be sure to bring that amount with you as well.

Coming up, I'm going to share with you what you can expect when you attend your appointment for your U.S. passport, and reveal how some people are getting their passport in as quickly as 24 hours.

But before I do, I want to let you know that I am accepting new clients.

My name is Moumita Rahman and I am an immigration lawyer who's been practicing immigration law for the past 14 years. If you would like my help on your case, call us at 212-248-7907. I am based in New York, but I work with clients all over the U.S.

Please note that we do not actually help persons prepare passport applications.

Attend Your Appointment

Okay, the next step in applying for your U.S. passport is to attend your appointment at the Passport Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency. Arrive early if you can and make sure you bring your completed Form DS-11, your supporting documents that we just discussed, and the correct fees.

A Passport Acceptance Agent will then review all of your materials to make sure everything is in order, and then have you take an oath and sign your DS-11 in front of them. You will then pay the application and execution fees, and then be on your merry way.

The entire process should hopefully only take 10 to 20 minutes, but sometimes there can be a long wait, especially if you're at the post office.

Check the Status of Your Application

If you would like to track the status of your application, the State Department has a website where you can sign up for status updates.

The URL is and it will ask you for your last name, your date of birth, and your social security number. Once submitted, some of the different status updates you might receive include in-process, approved, or passport mailed.

Note that status updates may not be available for the first two weeks after you submit your application. The total amount of time it takes from the moment you submit your application until the time you receive your passport will vary depending on where you applied and which service you paid for.

The current processing times on the State Department's website say that expedited service is two to three weeks and a routine service is six to eight weeks plus the amount of time it takes to mail everything to and from their facilities. So in theory, if you just paid for the routine service and didn't get one to two day shipping, you would be looking at potentially 10 to 12 weeks to receive your passport.

In reality, it may be faster or slower.

Receive Your Passport

Once you receive your passport in the mail, the first thing that you'll want to do is sign your full name in blue or black ink inside the passport. Next, you want to make photocopies and/or digital copies of your passport's identification page.

Leave one page with a trusted friend or relative at home, and carry another copy separately from your original passport when you travel just in case it gets stolen. After that, consider investing in a passport cover, especially one that can block RFID signals to protect against physical damage and unauthorized scans. And finally, keep an eye on that expiration date.

You're not able to travel internationally with an expired passport, so make sure you get it renewed at least every 10 years. Also, the general rule is that your passport must be valid for six months beyond your travel date in order to enter most countries, so don't wait until the last minute to renew.

Get a Passport in 24 Hours!

Finally, as promised, I wanted to address how you can get your passport in under 24 hours. The first way is if you have a genuine life or death situation.

If you need to travel internationally within three business days because your immediate family member outside the United States has died or has a life-threatening illness or injury, the Department of State will schedule an emergency appointment at a passport agency.

I won't go to the details here, but I will include a link here.

The other way isn't official, but people have reported being able to get passports within 24 hours by calling around passport agencies, finding ones with availability, and getting an appointment, and showing up early.

The Department of State does not say that this is possible on their website, so I'm not going to recommend that you try this, but some have claimed that this works. Again, don't forget that if you do happen to get an appointment within 24 hours, you still need to show proof of urgent travel or travel within 14 business days. Applying for a passport can be a surprisingly complicated process, so if you still have questions, leave them in the comments below.

And if you've already received your passport, leave a comment letting everyone know how long it took you from start to finish. And if you are an immigrant who just became a citizen or is about to become a citizen, you should know the top seven things that you must know when becoming a U.S. citizen.

I explain all seven things in my most recent video, including one important step that you need to take before applying for your passport.

So if you don't know what that is, click on this link and I'll see you there.

Follow Us Online!

Click each of the buttons below to follow us on our social media accounts!
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon
Instagram icon

Our Latest Videos