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U.S. Passports

English

Apply For or Renew My Passport

Frequently Asked Questions

We have 8 categories of FAQs below for your use.

  1. General Questions
  2. Children (Under 16)
  3. Social Security Number Requirement
  4. U.S. Passport Card
  5. Birth Documentation and Copies of Passport Records
  6. Service Partners and Professionals
  7. Photo Requirements
  8. U.S. Electronic Passport

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General Questions

How much does a U.S. passport cost?

The cost of your U.S. passport will depend on the type of passport you request and how quickly you need it. See Passport Fees for more information on the cost of a U.S. passport book or a U.S. passport card and all associated services.

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I have a life or death emergency in a foreign country and need a passport. What should I do?

Life or Death Emergencies involve serious illness, injury, or death in your immediate family that require you to travel within 72 hours (3 business days) to a foreign country that requires a passport. Customers must appear in person at a passport agency for emergency service with documentation of the emergency.

Please call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (TTY/TDD 1-888-874-7793) to schedule an appointment at the nearest Passport Agency. Our automated appointment system is accessible every day, 24 hours a day.  If the automated system cannot meet your needs, you can speak with a Customer Service Representative during business hours.  Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST (except federal holidays). 

If you are calling outside of business hours and cannot make an appointment that will meet your travel needs using the automated system, please call 202-647-4000.

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I am preparing for official travel. How do I get a diplomatic, official, or regular no-fee passport?

The Special Issuance Agency, located in Washington, D.C., issues no-fee passports to citizens traveling abroad for the U.S. Government, their dependents (if permitted to accompany them), and certain others who are exempt by law from payment of the passport fee.

For information see No-Fee Passport.

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My passport has already been issued and mailed to me, but I have not received it. What do I do?

Contact the National Passport Information Center. A Customer Service Representative will confirm the date your passport was mailed to you, the address to which it was mailed and, if necessary, help you to report the non-receipt of your passport.

You have 90 days from the date your passport was issued to report that you have not yet received it in the mail. If you do not report the non-receipt of your passport within 90 days of the issue date, you will be required to reapply and submit the full passport fee.

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Will I receive my new passport and my documents back in one envelope?

Passport Book Only: You may receive your newly issued passport and your citizenship documents in two separate mailings. Please contact the National Passport Information Center (NPIC) if you do not receive a second mailing within 10 business days of receiving the first.  

Passport Card Only: You may receive your newly issued passport card and your citizenship documents in two separate mailings. Please contact NPIC if you do not receive a second mailing within 10 business days of receiving the first.

Passport Book and Card: You may receive three separate mailings; one with your citizenship documents, one with your newly issued passport book, and one with your newly issued passport card. Please contact NPIC if you do not receive the second or third mailing within 10 business days of the previous mailing.

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I am traveling very soon. How do I get a passport quickly?
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How long does it take to get a passport?

Processing times can vary depending on the time of year, and occasional unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, we encourage customers to expedite their applications if traveling in less than 6 weeks. See Application Processing Times for more information.

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Who should have a valid U.S. passport?

Passport Services recommends that the following U.S. citizens maintain valid U.S. passports. 

  • Those with family living or traveling abroad
  • Those thinking about a vacation abroad, or
  • Those with a job that could require international travel.
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How many blank visa pages do I need to travel?

Some countries require that your passport has two to four blank visa/stamp pages. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

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How long is a passport valid and is it true that it needs to have at least 6 months of validity remaining?

If you were age 16 or older when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 10 years.

If you were under 16 when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 5 years.

The Issue Date of your passport can be found on the data page of your Passport Book or on the front of your Passport Card.

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.  Consider the following scenario: A country requires that you have at least six months of validity on your passport. You currently have seven months of validity on your passport.  However, your trip is two months from now. At that point, you will only have five months of validity remaining on your passport which is not enough to satisfy that country's entry requirements. In this situation, you would need to renew your passport before you can make your trip.

Check our Country Specific Information to learn about entry and exit requirements for the country or countries in which you are traveling.  Watch this short YouTube video about why you need at least six months of validity on your U.S. passport!

If your passport has already expired, you may still be able to renew your passport by mail. See How to Renew Your U.S. Passport.

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I'm renewing my passport. Do I get the old one back?

Yes, in most cases, we will return the old, cancelled passport to you.  It may be sent separately from your new passport. It is a good idea to keep your old passport in a safe place as it is considered proof of your U.S. citizenship.

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I was recently married/divorced. How do I change my name on my passport?

If you are changing your name within one year of the date your passport was issued you will need to complete Form DS-5504: Application for a U.S. Passport: Name Change, Data Correction, and Limited Passport Book Replacement.  You will not be charged a fee for this service.  

If you are changing your name more than a year after your passport was issued you must submit Form DS-82: Application for Passport by Mail.  You must pay all applicable fees passport renewals.

For more information, see How to Change or Correct a Passport.

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Why is there an execution fee for the passport and passport card?

The execution fee applies to first-time applicants, children, and those replacing a lost, stolen, or damaged passport who must appear in person before an agent authorized by the Secretary of State to give oaths to verify passport applications. In order to offer American citizens convenient locations to apply for a passport, the Department of State authorizes Passport Acceptance Agents to accept passport applications on its behalf. The execution fee is to reimburse the acceptance facility for the cost of the service provided to the customer and to serve as an incentive for participation in the Passport Application Acceptance Program.

When applying for both the passport book and card on the same application, you pay only one execution fee. The execution fee does not apply to adult passport book or card renewals when submitting Form DS-82.

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How do I order applications in bulk?

Bulk quantities of passport Form DS-11 (Application for Passport) and Form DS-82 (Application for Passport by Mail) are now available from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

For more information on how to order applications in bulk see How to Obtain Bulk Quantities of Passport Applications.

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I found someone's lost passport. What should I do with it?

Please mail the found passport in a sturdy envelope, to:

ATTN: CLASP
U.S. Department of State
CA/PPT/S/L/LE
4th Floor
1150 Passport Services PL
Dulles, VA 20189-1150

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My passport has been damaged. Can I continue to use this passport?

If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the book cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport.  Damage that might require you to replace your passport includes water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.

Normal "wear and tear" of a U.S. passport is expected and likely does not count as "damage."  For instance normal wear includes the bend of a passport after being carried in your back pocket or fanning of the visa pages after extensive opening and closing.

If you need to replace your damaged passport, you will need to submit the following in person (See Where to Apply):

  • The damaged passport;
  • A signed statement explaining the damaged or mutilated condition of your passport book and/or card; 
  • Form DS-11; and
  • All documents required by Form DS-11, including citizenship documentation (i.e., birth certificate).
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My gender has changed since my last passport. What do I do?

You must apply using form DS-11, whether you are in the process of or have completed your gender transition. In addition to the regular requirements for those applying on a DS-11, you’ll also need a physician’s statement. For complete details, please see Gender Designation Change.

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Can I pay online?

No, the Department of State does not currently have the option to pay online for passport services, although this service may be offered in the future. You will not be asked to provide credit card information on this site at this time.

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My deceased family member still has a valid passport in his/her name. Should I turn it in to be canceled?

The Department of State recommends that a family member or executor of a deceased passport bearer return the passport for cancelation. The passport will be returned to you after it is canceled. Please submit the valid passport, a certified copy of the death certificate, and a letter requesting the cancelation and return (or destruction) of the passport to:

U.S. Department of State
Consular Lost and Stolen Passport Unit (CLASP)
CA/PPT/S/L/LE/CP
44132 Mercure Circle
P.O. Box 1227
Sterling, VA 20166-1227

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Can I get extra visa pages for my passport?

No, you cannot. Applicants who need additional pages in their valid passports must obtain a new passport by mail. Applicants within the United States may choose a 28-page or 52-page book.

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What counts as the “proof of international travel” required to apply at a passport agency?

Your international travel must be within either two weeks or four weeks if you need to obtain a foreign visa. Proof of international travel includes but is not limited to a flight itinerary, hotel reservation, and cruise tickets. A print version of your proof of travel is required at most agencies.

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Can I use a passport to fly domestically?

Yes. The U.S. passport book and U.S. passport card are both Real ID compliant and can be used for domestic air travel. 

According to the Department for Homeland Security, after January 22, 2018, residents of all states must use a Real ID compliant ID for domestic air travel. Not sure if your state’s driver’s license and ID are Real ID compliant? Check your state’s status. For a complete list of acceptable forms of identification to fly domestically visit TSA

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I have a passport, but I’ve changed addresses. Do I need to update my passport?

No, you don’t need to update your current passport with your new address. However, if you have a passport application that is currently in process, and you’d like to change your mailing address, please contact the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

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I got a letter in the mail or an email about my application. What should I do?

We sent you a letter or email because we need more information from you before we continue processing your passport. The letters and emails all have specialized instructions for your case that you should follow. If you’re having a hard time understanding what it means, Respond to a Letter or Email might be able to help you.

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I need my passport sooner than I thought. What can I do?

You can upgrade your application from routine processing to expedited processing for an additional $60. You may also choose to add express delivery of your completed passport for an additional $15.45.

Call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY) and ask to upgrade your application service type. You’ll need either your application number or your last name and date of birth, as well as your credit card to pay the $60 expedite fee.

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I received an endorsement in my new passport stating that I’m a covered sex offender, but I am not a covered sex offender. Who do I contact to ask about this?

Applicants may contact the DHS/ICE Angel Watch Center (AWC) via email at dhsintermeganslaw@ice.dhs.gov.

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Children (Under Age 16)

What do I do if my child is too young to sign his or her passport book?

A parent or legal guardian may sign the passport if the child is too young to sign his or her own name. To do so, a parent or legal guardian must print the child’s name and sign his or her own name in the space provided for the signature. The parent or legal guardian must also write his or her relationship to the child in parenthesis next to the signature (e.g., parent or legal guardian) so we know who signed for the child.

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Does a minor under 16 need to have parental or legal guardian consent when applying for a passport?

Yes. For a complete explanation of Parental Consent for a Minor's passport application go to Children Under 16.

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What is the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP)?

Parents may enroll their U.S. citizen children under the age of 18 in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP), one of the Department of State’s most important tools for preventing international parental child abduction.  If a passport application is submitted for a child who is enrolled in CPIAP, the Department attempts to alert the parent or parents to verify whether the parents approve passport issuance.

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How do I renew my child's passport?

The passport application process for minors, under age 16, is the same whether or not the minor has had a passport in the past or not.  The application must be submitted in person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility.  It cannot be renewed by mail.  For more information go to Children Under 16

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Social Security Number Requirement

Do I have to provide my Social Security number on my passport application?

Yes. 22 U.S.C. 2714a and 22 C.F.R 51.60(f) requires you to provide your Social Security number, if you have one, when you apply for a U.S. passport or renewal of a U.S. passport.

If you fail to provide the information, you will encounter a delay in processing and/or denial of your passport application.  You will also be subject to a $500 penalty enforced by the IRS pursuant to Section 6039E of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 6039E). All questions on this matter should be directed to the nearest IRS office.

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What if I don’t have a Social Security number?

If you would like to apply for a U.S. passport, and you don’t have a Social Security number, you will need to submit a statement, signed and dated, which includes the phrase, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct:  I have never been issued a Social Security number by the Social Security Administration.”

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What if I am applying for a passport for my child who does not have a Social Security number yet?

You will need to submit a statement, signed and dated, which includes the phrase, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct:  (Child's full name) has never been issued a Social Security number by the Social Security Administration.”

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What if I can’t remember my Social Security number?

If you submit an application for a U.S. passport and do not provide a Social Security number, you will encounter a delay with the processing and/or denial of your passport application. Contact the Social Security Administration for information about obtaining a new or replacement Social Security number and card.

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What if I have an emergency and need to travel but cannot locate my Social Security number?

If you are outside the United States, we may be able to issue you a limited passport for direct return to the United States only. If you are in the United States, we cannot issue you a passport unless you provide your Social Security number.

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U.S. Passport Card

What is the passport card?

The passport card is the wallet-size travel document that can only be used to re-enter the United States at land border-crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The card provides a less expensive, smaller, and convenient alternative to the passport book for those who travel frequently to these destinations by land or by sea. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air.

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Why can’t I use the passport card to fly to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda?

The passport card was designed for the specific needs of northern and southern U.S. border communities with residents that cross the border frequently by land. The passport book is the only document approved for international travel by air.

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How can I learn more about what travel documents are required by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?

See the Department of Homeland Security's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative site.

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Won’t this chip violate Americans’ privacy?

There is no personal information written on the electronic chip itself. The chip contains a unique number which identifies a stored record within secure government databases.

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Does the passport card contain an electronic chip?

Yes, the passport card has a vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip.

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How secure is the card?

Laser engraving and state-of-the-art security features minimize the possibility of counterfeiting and forgery. The card is issued with a protective sleeve that prevents the card from being read when not in use.

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How do I apply for a passport card?

You use the same form that you would use to apply for a passport book (DS-11 or DS-82). There is a checkbox on the form for you to indicate that you are applying for a passport card.

If you already have a passport book and you are eligible to use Form DS-82 (renewal by mail), you may apply for a passport card using DS-82 even if this is your first passport card. Otherwise you will need to use form DS-11 to apply for a passport card.

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Can I apply for the passport card and passport book at the same time using the same application?

hat you would like to apply for both products.

If you already have a passport book and are eligible to use Form DS-82, you may apply for your new passport card by mail using Form DS-82. You may renew your passport book at the same time using the same form.

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How much does the passport card cost?

First-time adult applicants pay $55, renewal adult applicants pay $30, and all minors pay $40. See Passport Fees for more details.

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How long will it take to receive a passport card?

See Processing Times. The processing time for the passport card is the same as for the passport book.

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How many photos are required when applying for both the passport book and passport card on the same application?

Only one photo is required.

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Is there a threat from skimming personal information or tracking American citizens?

The RFID technology used in the passport card allows the card to be read from a distance by an authorized Customs and Border Protection reader mounted alongside the traffic lane. Just like the chip in the passport book, the chip in the passport card contains no biographic data. The chip will have a unique number linking the card to a secure database maintained by DHS and State. However, to address concerns that passport card bearers can be tracked by this technology, we are requiring that the vendor provide a sleeve that will prevent the card from being read while inside it.

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What is RFID Technology?

Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) has been used successfully along our land borders with Canada and Mexico since 1995.  It is currently used in the Department of Homeland Security's trusted traveler programs, such as NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST. U.S. border officials can expedite legitimate cross-border travel and trade of trusted travelers who carry membership cards with vicinity-read RFID chips that link to government databases. Membership in these programs currently exceeds 400,000.

RFID technology has been commercially available in one form or another since the 1970s. It can be found in car keys, highway toll tags, bank cards and security access cards. The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, who staff the ports of entry, anticipate that the speed of vicinity RFID will allow CBP officers to quickly access information on the traveler from secure government databases before they arrive at the inspection booth, and allow for automated terrorist watch list checks without impeding traffic flow. In addition, they foresee that multiple cards can be read at a distance and simultaneously, allowing an entire car of people to be processed at once.

The RFID technology embedded in documents will not include any personally identifying information; only a unique number that can be associated with a record stored in a secure government database will be transmitted.

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Birth Documentation and Copies of Passport Records

How do I get a certified copy of my U.S. birth certificate?

Contact the Vital Statistics office in the state where you were born.

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What do I do if there is no birth record for me on file anywhere?

If you were born in the U.S. and there is no birth record on file, you will need several different documents to substantiate your citizenship. You will need:

  • A letter of no record issued from the Vital Statistics office of the state of your birth with your name and what years were searched for your birth record.
  •  Early public records to prove your birth in the U.S. 

To learn more, visit Citizenship Evidence.

If you were born outside the U.S. and your U.S. parent(s) did not register your birth at the U.S. embassy or consulate, you may apply for a U.S. passport. You will need:

  • Your foreign birth certificate showing both of your parents' names
  • Evidence of your parent(s) U.S. citizenship and
  • Your parents' marriage certificate

To learn more, visit Citizenship Evidence.

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I was born abroad. How do I get one or more copies of my birth record?

Request a Certification of Report of Birth or learn more about birth records for U.S. citizens and nationals born abroad.

If you were born in the Panama Canal Zone, learn how to request multiple copies of your PCZ Birth Certificate.

As of December 31, 2010, the Department of State no longer issues the Certification of Report of Birth (DS-1350). All previously issued DS-1350s are still valid as proof of identity and citizenship.

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How do I replace my lost or damaged Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)?

If your Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240) is lost or damaged, learn how to Request a Replacement.

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How do I amend my Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)?

To change a name or update your Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240), learn how to Request an Amendment.

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Why did the Department of State create a new Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)?

The Department introduced a redesigned Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240) in January 2011. The new design has state-of-the-art security features to help prevent fraud and identity theft. The FS-240 is an official record confirming that a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents acquired U.S. citizenship at birth and serves as proof of citizenship.

You may now request multiple copies of your Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240).

As of December 2010, the Certification of Report of Birth (DS-1350) is no longer issued. All previously issued FS-240 or DS-1350 documents are still valid as proof of identity, citizenship and for other legal purposes.

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How do I obtain copies of my Certification of Report of Birth (DS-1350)?

As of December 2010, the Certification of Report of Birth (DS-1350) is no longer issued. Instead, you may request multiple copies of your Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240). All previously issued DS-1350s are still valid as proof of identity, citizenship and for other legal purposes.

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I was married overseas. How do I get one or more copies of my marriage certificate?

Request one or more copies of your Certificate of Witness to Marriage (Abroad).

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I lost a loved one overseas. How do I get one or more copies of the death certificate?

Request one or more copies of a Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad.

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How do I obtain copies of a previous passport application?

For information on how to obtain copies of your passport records see Obtain Copies of Passport Records.

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Service Partners and Professionals

I am a professional photographer. Where can I obtain information on taking passport photos?

Technological advances have changed the way passport photos may be taken and the way that the U.S. Department of State processes the photos. See Passport Photos for more information.

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I am a travel agent. Where can I obtain passport information for my customers?

To ensure your customers have the most up-to-date information regarding passports, direct them to travel.state.gov.  There they will find information about passport requirements, where to apply, how to download an application, and more.  

You should also add a link to travel.state.gov on your website.  See our Travel Agents Homepage for more information.

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Photo Requirements

How many photos must I submit with my passport application?

You must submit one photo with your passport application.

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What type of paper should I print my photos on?

Photos must be printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper.

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Does my photo have to be in color?

Yes, your photo must be in color. A black and white photo will not be accepted.

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How recent must my photo have been taken?

Your photo must have been taken within 6 months of submitting your application and reflect your current appearance.

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What size must my photo be?

The photo must be exactly 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm).

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What pose should I be in for my photo?

You must directly face the camera.  Profile shots will not be accepted. Your expression should be neutral with both eyes open and directly facing the camera. Photos with exaggerated expressions and squinting will not be accepted.

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How large should my head be in the photo?

Your head should be between 1 inch and 1-3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of your chin to the top of your hair. If you are submitting a digital image, then your head should be between 50% and 69% of the image's total height from the top of the head, including the hair, to the bottom of the chin.

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Can I wear glasses in the photo?

No, you may not. Just take them off for your passport photo.

If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, you'll need to obtain and submit a signed statement from your doctor with your passport application.

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Can I wear sunglasses or tinted glasses in my photo?

No, you may not. Just take them off for your passport photo.

If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, you'll need to obtain and submit a signed statement from your doctor with your passport application.

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Can I wear a hat or head covering for the photo?

You may wear a hat or head covering, but you must submit a signed statement that verifies that the hat or head covering is part of recognized, traditional religious attire that is customarily or required to be worn continuously in public or a signed doctor's statement verifying the item 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.

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Can a parent or guardian appear in the photo of a child?

No, the child must be the only person in the photo. Nothing used to support the child should be in the camera's frame, including the arms or hands of a parent holding the child.

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Can I wear a uniform in my photo?

Uniforms, clothing that looks like a uniform, and camouflage attire cannot be worn in the photo except in the case of religious attire that is worn daily. 

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Is it acceptable for my child's eyes to be closed in his/her photo?

It is acceptable if an infant's eyes, particularly a newborn's, are not, or are not entirely, open.  All other children must have their eyes open and looking straight ahead towards the camera. 

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What is the best way to take a photo of a baby or toddler?

When taking a photo of your baby or toddler, no other person should be in the photo, and your child should be looking at the camera with his or her eyes open. 

Tip 1:

Lay your baby on his or her back on a plain white or off-white sheet. This will ensure your baby's head is supported and provide a plain background for the photo. Make certain there are no shadows on your baby's face, especially if you take a picture from above with the baby lying down.

Tip 2:

Cover a car seat with a plain white or off-white sheet and take a picture of your child in the car seat. This will also ensure your baby’s head is supported.

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Can I use a digital camera to take my passport photo?

Yes, you can use a digital camera.  However, most webcams and mobile phones cannot provide images of sufficient quality. 

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Can I remove the red-eye from my photo?

Yes. Removing red-eye from your photo is acceptable. You are not allowed to digitally enhance or alter the photo to change your appearance in any other way.

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Are photos that are copied from recent driver licenses or other official documents acceptable?

Copied or digitally scanned photos of official documents will not be accepted. In addition, photos must not be digitally enhanced or altered to change your appearance in any way.

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Are snapshots, magazine photos, mobile device photos, or photos from vending machines acceptable?

No. Snapshots, magazine photos, low-resolution vending machine photos, mobile device photos, or full-length photographs are not acceptable.

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Do I need to take a new photo if my appearance has changed?

New photos are only required if your appearance has significantly changed from what is in your photo.  Growing a beard or coloring your hair would not constitute a significant change.  If you can still be identified from the photo in your current passport, you do not need to apply for a new passport.  

You may have to apply for a new passport if you have:

  • Undergone significant facial surgery or trauma
  • Added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos
  • Undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain
  • Made a gender transition

If the appearance of your child under the age of 16 has changed due to the normal aging process, you do not need to apply for a new passport for him or her.

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The U.S. Electronic Passport

What is an electronic passport?

Since August 2007, the U.S. has been issuing only e-passports.  An electronic passport has a small integrated circuit (or “chip”) embedded in the back cover and has a new look with additional anti-fraud and security features.  

The chip securely stores:

  • The same information visually displayed on the photo page of the passport;
  • A biometric identifier in the form of a digital image of the passport photograph, which will facilitate the use of facial recognition technology at ports-of-entry;
  • The unique chip identification number; and
  • A digital signature to protect the stored data from alteration.  
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What are the special features of an electronic passport?
  • Secure electronic storage of biographical information and digital image that are identical to the information that is printed on the passport;
  • Technology that allows the information stored in an Electronic Passport to be read by special chip readers at a close distance; and
  • Digital signature technology that is used to verify the authenticity of the data stored on the chip. This technology is commonly used in credit cards and other secure documents using integrated circuits or chips.
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What is a biometric? Which one does the electronic passport use?

A biometric or biometric identifier is a measurable physical or behavioral characteristic of an individual, which can be used to verify the identity of that individual or to compare against other entries when stored in a database. Examples of biometrics include facial recognition, fingerprints, and iris scans. The U.S. Electronic Passport uses the digital image of the passport photograph as the biometric identifier that is used with facial recognition technology to verify the identity of the passport bearer.

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How does an electronic passport facilitate travel?

An electronic passport facilitates travel by allowing:  

  • Automated identity verification,
  • Faster immigration inspections, and
  • Greater border protection and security. 
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Why are electronic passports being issued?

As a security measure, Congress requires countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States to issue passports with integrated circuits (chips) to permit storage of at least a digital image of the passport photograph for use with facial recognition technology. The United States is reciprocating by complying with the latest international standards established for secure travel documents.

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What happens if an electronic passport is lost or stolen?

If your passport has been lost or stolen, it should be reported immediately to help protect yourself against identity theft and to prevent someone else from using the passport. 

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Can a previously issued passport still be used for travel as long as it is still valid?

Yes.

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Can an electronic passport be amended, for example, if I change my name?

No. Electronic passports cannot be amended. You will have to get a new passport if you change your name, need to extend a limited passport, or need a correction in the descriptive information. Within the first year after issuance, the new passport will be issued without additional payment of the passport fee. After one year, fees will be assessed for the new passport.

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Can I request my passport to be issued without a chip?

No.

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Will someone be able to read or access the information on the chip without my knowledge (also known as skimming or eavesdropping)?

We have taken a number of steps prevent criminals from “skimming” data from the chip, “eavesdropping” on communications between the chip and reader, “tracking” passport holders, and “cloning” the passport chip.  

Skimming is the act of obtaining data from an unknowing end user who is not willingly submitting the information at that time. Eavesdropping is the interception of information as it moves electronically between the chip and the chip reader.

“Skimming.” We use an embedded metallic element in our passports. One of the simplest measures for preventing unauthorized reading of e-passports is to add RF blocking material to the cover of an e-passport. A passport has to be physically opened before it can be read. It is a simple and effective method for reducing the opportunity for unauthorized reading of the passport. 

“Skimming and Eavesdropping.” We have adopted Basic Access Control (BAC) to minimize the risk of “skimming” and “eavesdropping.” A chip that is protected by the BAC mechanism denies access to its contents unless the inspection system can prove that it is authorized to access the chip.  “Tracking.”  The chip in the e-passport uses a randomized Unique Identifier (UID) to reduce the risk of the document bearer being tracked.  

“Cloning.” Cloning involves removing an e-passport’s chip and replacing it with the chip from another passport. The simplest way to counter this threat is to make sure that the chip data matches the information on the e-passports data-page.

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Can the information on the chip be altered?

E-passports use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology that prevents the information stored on the chip from being altered. 

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What will happen if my electronic passport chip stops working?

The chip in the passport is just one of the many security features of the passport. If the chip fails, the passport remains a valid travel document until its expiration date. You will continue to be processed by the port-of-entry officer as if you had a passport without a chip.