Passport Rules You May Not Be Aware Of

For many people, a passport is the key to discovery and adventure; a ticket to the world.

For others, it’s the government-official document that they’ve come to find out, after hours of searching for it, has expired two years ago.


Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.


Whether you need a passport, a renewal, or just updates on the latest legislation, here is a comprehensive list of all must-know US passport rules for 2018.


Passports: The Basics
A passport is issued by the United States Department of State and is required for all US citizens when exiting and entering the US and all other countries in the world.


A passport obtained by someone 16 and older is valid for 10 years, and a passport obtained by someone under 16 is valid for 5 years.


Passports and processing costs vary according to type, age, and residency.

If you’d like to get specifics, check out the passport fee calculator available here.


Adults (16 and older)

For first-time applicants, a passport comes with two fees paid separately: the application fee and the execution fee.

Children (under 16)

Parents, take note: unlike the processes for adults, “All child applicants, including renewals, must apply in person,” (Travel.State.Gov).


The passport fees for kids under 16 are as follows:

Whether you’re looking to acquire, replace, renew, or modify a passport, the multi-step process is not one you can skip over like reading the “terms of service” before an update. You’ll need to get familiar with your responsibilities as a passport-owner.


The Application Process


Step 1: Fill Out Your Form.
The DS-11 form is for first-time applicants, children under 16 applying or renewing, applicants aged 16–17, and for anyone not eligible for the DS-82 form.

The DS-82 form is for renewing an adult’s passport. Renewing with the DS-82 requires your current or previous passport. If you do not have it—stolen, missing, lost—than use DS-11.

The DS-5504 form is used for changing a name within a year, correcting a passport error, or replacing a Limited Validity passport within 1–2 years.

Once you’ve acquired the right form and have filled it out, you will need to provide the required identification information.

Step 2: Gather Supporting Documents.
Depending on what form you’re using, you will need citizenship evidence, identification, and for those under 16, proof of relationship.

Step 3: Take Your Photo.

Gone are the days of mandatory onsite photographs. That’s right, you can submit a 2 by 2-inch color photo of your own choosing as your passport picture.

However, the guidelines are strict. If you wish to provide your own picture, take note of the passport photo requirements:
Head must be facing the camera in full view
Neutral expression or natural smile
Both eyes open
Dressed in typical attire
Taken within 6 months of obtaining passport
Taken with plain white or off-white background
Head must be between 1–1 3/8 inches (25–35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
Printed on matte or glossy photo-quality paper
Printed in color
Taken without headphones or glasses – “If you cannot remove your glasses for
medical reasons, please include a signed note from your doctor with application.”
Taken without a hat or head covering – “If you wear a hat or head covering for religious purposes, submit a signed statement that verifies that the hat or head covering in your photo is part of recognized, traditional religious attire that is customarily or required to be worn continuously in public. If you wear a hat or head covering for medical purposes, submit a signed doctor’s statement verifying the hat or head covering in your photo is used daily for medical purposes,” (Travel.State.Gov).
Once you’ve taken or submitted your photo, you are ready to get out your checkbook.


Step 4: Pay the Fees.
The accepted payment methods for passports and processes are very specific. Read the following information to ensure that you show up prepared.


The accepted payment methods for Application Fees and Additional Services Fees when applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility are checks (personal, certified, cashier’s, traveler’s) or money orders payable to “U.S. Department of State.”


Credit and debit cards are NOT accepted.
I repeat: credit and debit cards are NOT accepted.

The Execution Fee is paid separately and can be paid with: money orders at all locations, payable as instructed by the facility; personal checks and cash (exact change only) at some locations; and credit cards at US postal facilities and some other locations.
For those paying the Execution Fee, take note:

Beginning April 2, 2018, the execution fee will increase from $25 to $35; however, the extra $10 will only be charged for people applying in-person at a passport agency. The increase will not apply to those renewing their passports by mail.

If you are planning to get a passport in-person, there is still time to save yourself $10 if you act quickly and get your passport before April 2, 2018.


The payment method options for applying by mail—Renewals and Additional Services fees—are as follows:
Checks (personal, certified, cashier’s, traveler’s)

  • Money orders payable to “U.S. Department of State”

For applicants residing in Canada, visit Applying for a U.S. Passport from Outside the United States.

The accepted payment methods for applying at a Passport Agency are more varied:
• Credit Cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover) and Debit Cards displaying the Visa or MasterCard logo
• Checks (personal, certified, cashiers, travelers), payable to “U.S. Department of State”
• Money orders (U.S. Postal, international, currency exchanges), payable to “U.S. Department of State”
• Cash (exact amount only – no change provided)
• Pre-paid credit card or gift card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logo

Lastly, accepted protocol and payment methods for applying outside of the US are as follows: “You must apply in-person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Each U.S. embassy and consulate has different procedures for submitting and processing your final documents, but the forms, supporting documentation, fees, and finished products are the same.
U.S. embassies and consulates can only accept cash (local currency or U.S. dollars), or in some cases, credit cards. Please see the website of your embassy or consulate to confirm the forms of payment they accept,” (travel.State.Gov).


Step 5: Submit!
Then, of course, wait for your passport to arrive so you can (step 6) travel the world!



Fortunately, completing the application process as a first-time applicant only happens—you guessed it—once. Other passport processes are typically less tedious.


The Renewal Process

Unless your current passport is lost, stolen, or damaged—in which you must then apply in-person with the DS-11 Form—you can renew your passport by filling out the DS-82 Form with your current passport.


Adult renewal applicants residing in the U.S. must apply by mail.

This means that you should allocate enough time for this process prior to any travel.


Where and When to Apply

If you need a passport immediately due to a life or death emergency, call to make an appointment for emergency passport services:


1-888-874-7793 (TTY/TDD)

Business hours Mon.–Fri., 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, except Federal Holidays. Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

After business hours: 202-647-4000


According to the U.S. State of Department website: ”Life or death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 business days).

You must provide all the usual application documentation in addition to proof of the life or death emergency. Proof of an emergency includes a death certificate (translated), a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional,” (Travel.State.Gov).


If you are traveling within 2 weeks or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks and need a passport in less than 3 weeks’ time, make an appointment at a passport agency or center. “Proof of immediate international travel, the Expedited Fee, and an appointment are required for each application submitted in person at a Passport Agency or Center,” (Travel.State.Gov).


If you need a passport in less or more than 4–6 weeks, apply at an acceptance facility or apply by mail.


The easiest way to find the nearest passport acceptance facility is by using the convenient and easy-to-use Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page, where you can search by proximity to your zip code.


Pet Passports

If you don’t wish to part ways with your animal, rest assured. You don’t have to.


“Pet Travel Schemes (PETS) is a pet passport program used by a group of participating countries, including the United States and nations in the European Union,” (USA Today).


Pet owners planning to travel abroad with their pets must first take the (approved) animal to a veterinarian certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The pet passport is provided by the vet.


If you choose to travel domestically or internationally with your pet(s), it’s important to research all of the information, as rules vary by state and destination.


To learn everything you need to know about traveling with your favorite furry (or not so furry) buddy, visit the United States Department of Agriculture.



Passports: The Latest
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security put the following nine states on alert for the possible requirement of passports for domestic travel: Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington.


The reason? Their state-issued IDs are not compliant with the Real ID Act of 2005.


However, TSA has granted extension until October 2018 to enforce the new ID rules.


For those who want to play it safe, order your passport and become TSA-compliant before the deadline. To learn more, visit the official website for the Department of Homeland Security.



If your passport has water damage (read as: was left in a pocket of jeans that went through the wash), you will need to replace it.


Other damage that might require passport replacement includes: “a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries,” (Travel.State.Gov).
While not as common as damaged passports, some travelers are eligible for a diplomatic, official, or regular no-fee passport.

If you—and if permitted, your dependents—are traveling abroad for the US government, or if you are exempt by law from paying passport fees, you can acquire your passport(s) from the Special Issuance Agency located in Washington, D.C.


For the rest of us: take note of upcoming travel that overlaps with a passport’s expiration. “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,” (Travel.State.Gov).


If you are abroad and your passport does expire, you can renew your passport at the nearest US embassy or consulate general.


For any other information regarding entry and exit requirements for your destination country—and if the country will require 2–4 blank visa or stamp pages—visit the U.S. Department of State’s Country Information page.



Remember: your passport is the ticket to the world.


And also the only document that will grant you re-entry back into the United States.


Only have it on you when you need it. Otherwise, you risk a lot more than losing a booklet.


I'm a location independent entrepreneur (2 decades strong). I've written a book endorsed by the Napoleon Hill foundation (Think And Grow Rich) and I teach entrepreneurship and how to create leveraged income for freedom. I LOVE travel, new experiences, nice dogs, great wine, and laughing at haters.

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