Demystifying the Passport Process

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

Passports are not a hot topic these days because either most people thinks most people have it or since it isn’t required for day to day activities like a state ID, unless you are traveling international or to a foreign country, we just don’t discuss it. Nevertheless, here are some interesting facts and statistics. According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Dept of State, over two thirds of Americans don’t have a passport, that’s approximately 66.7%. There are 21.1 MILLION issued passports.

Passports in circulation:

• 137 MILLION valid U.S. passports

• 42 PERCENT of U.S. citizens have a passport

• 29 domestic passport agencies and centers

• Approximately 7,600 passport application acceptance facilities nationwide

• 4.5 MILLION inquiries are addressed by the National Passport Information Center

As stated by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, “a U.S. passport is your ticket to international travel. The U.S. passport is a request to foreign governments to permit you to travel or temporarily reside in their territories and have access to lawful local aid and protection. The passport allows you access to U.S. consular services and assistance while abroad. Most importantly, it allows you to re-enter the United States upon your return home.” By having a valid U.S. passport, you are being protected and the passport serves as a proof of U.S. citizenship at home and around the world.

With this in mind, we highly encourage you to apply for a passport even though you have no plans to travel right now or anytime in the future. You may think that you don’t need it anytime soon, however, being prepared and having important documents intact is a good step forward. You just never know when you could really be in need of it. This world is filled with uncertainties. For instance, no one knew or could have predicted a government shutdown could last for a whole month but it happened in January 2019. Making it the longest government ever, lasting for 35 days, and another one may be imminent if demands are not met. Although, passport processing centers like the post office were open, however, certain departments that also oversee some aspects of processing a valid passport weren’t. So, if you were in urgent need of a passport, you probably would have to wait a bit longer than regular processing time line.

According to Rush my Passport, the government has shut down 22 times since 1976, and every time there’s a shutdown, government services are impacted. During a government shutdown, even if the passport offices are still open, processing could take longer than usual. That’s because passport services are funded in part by application fees. So, there’s usually some money available to continue services even if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill. In January 2018, for example, the State Department stated, “Consular operations domestically and abroad will remain 100% operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations.” That includes passport services.

Bureau of Consular Affairs

Where to Apply

Where you apply depends on when you need your U.S. passport.

Please note that there instructions only applies to those applying inside the United States. For information on how to apply for a U.S. passport outside the United States, please visit Apply Outside the United States.

Get a Passport in a Hurry

If you need your passport quickly, you can expedite your application. Please see our most up-to-date processing times. Expedited service is an additional $60.

If you need a Passport in Less than 3 weeks, here’s what to do?

Less than 3 weeks

I have urgent international travel plans.

Example: you're traveling overseas on June 22. Beginning June 1, you should schedule an appointment at a passport agency or center that is on June 8 or later. You can only go to the actual appointment within 2 weeks of international travel (or 4 weeks if you need a visa).


Make an appointment at a passport agency or center (must bring proof of travel

Contact U.S. Passports

The National Passport Information Center is available to answer your passport questions.

Please note: If you're outside the United States, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Make an Appointment at a Passport Agency

Appointments can be made online or via phone. Online: Online Passport Appointment System. Most customers should apply at an acceptance facility or renew by mail (if eligible). Passport agencies provide special service to customers traveling within two weeks or in need of a visa in less than four weeks. You must make an appointment to apply at a passport agency.

Application Fees

Application Fees and Execution Fees are paid separately. For more information on how to apply, please see First-Time Applicants.

How To Replace Your Passport If Lost

Each year more than 300,000 U.S. passports are reported lost or stolen, according to TRIP (Travel Responsibly, Informed and Protected), an initiative by the US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA). If your passport is lost or stolen when you are traveling overseas, report it to police immediately, then go to the nearest US embassy or consulate. Often, it's possible to receive your new passport within 24 hours.

According to TRIP, “If you lose your passport more than once, you may be carefully questioned when you request the second replacement. That is because the foreign service must constantly protect against attempts at passport fraud, both by U.S. citizens and non-citizens. People who commit passport fraud do so for criminal purposes, such as money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism, or to enter the U.S. illegally." So, treat your passport as the significant and valuable item it is. Always carry it directly on your person for maximum safety, not in checked luggage, in your purse, or in a carry-on, where it can more easily be lost or stolen. Use passport holders that you can wear under your clothing. Even though very clever pickpockets can sometimes defeat this method, your passport is safer worn this way than carried in a bag that can be lost.

Passport Photos

You must provide one photo with your passport application.

All our photo policies apply to both adults and children under age 16. We have a few exceptions to our photo policies for infants.

Photo Basics (as listed on the CA website) pay close attention to the specifics so you don’t make the process tedious than it suppose to be.

Submit a color photo, taken in last 6 monthsUse a clear image of your face that reflects your true skin tone. Do not use filters commonly used on social media.Have someone else take your photo. No selfies.Take off your eyeglasses for your photo.Use a plain white or off-white background.

Resolution, Print Size, and Quality

Submit a high resolution photo that is not blurry, grainy, or pixelated.The correct size of a passport photo is:2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) Head must be between 1 -1 3/8 inches (25 - 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the headPrinted on matte or glossy photo quality paperDo not digitally change the photo (except to remove red-eye)You cannot submit a damaged photo with holes, creases, or smudges.

Pose and Expression

Have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open. Face the camera directly with full face in view. Note to parents of young children: we have sample photos in the Photo Examples section below with tips for submitting a baby's passport photo. We realize that an infant's pose and expression are challenging to maintain for a photo.


You cannot wear glasses.If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, please include a signed note from your doctor with application.Taken in clothing normally worn on a daily basis. You cannot wear a uniform, clothing that looks like a uniform, or camouflage attire. You cannot wear 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 traditional religious attire 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.Your full face must be visible and your hat or head covering cannot obscure your hairline or cast shadows on your face.You cannot wear headphones or wireless hands-free devices.You can wear jewelry and keep on your facial piercings as long as they do not hide your face. Permanent tattoos are acceptable for passport purposes as well.

Here’s a short Video which summarized the process in details.

If you have any other suggestions regarding this topic, feel free to share.

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