Passports issued by the United States for international travel come in several different colors. If you are a private citizen traveling for your own business or pleasure purposes, your passport is likely to be dark blue. Diplomats traveling on behalf of the government use black passports to identify themselves as diplomats entitled to immunity and privileges. The government also issues a red passport, which is used by individuals traveling on government business without diplomatic status.

Passport Details

The red passport, also described as maroon, is valid for five years. You do not have to pay a fee for a red passport because your travel is on behalf of the government. Those who travel with this type of passport are members of Congress, members of the military, family members of military personnel, and any other private citizen who might be conducting international travel at the request of the government. A red passport is only issued to people who are at least 18 years of age. The State Department will issue minor children traveling with red passport holders a no-fee blue passport.

Applying for a Red Passport

To obtain an official passport or a red passport, an individual must complete form DS-11 or DS-82, provided by the State Department. A birth certificate or an old passport, along with two standard passport photos are also necessary, as well as a memo that authorizes the applicant to hold a red passport. The memo must include information on the destination, length of stay, purpose of travel and date the official business concludes. Military members must have the memo signed by an officer holding a rank of O-5 or higher. Private citizens require an approved signature from an authorized branch of the U.S. government.

Renewing a Red Passport

The requirements to renew an official passport, or red passport, are similar to those for a first-time passport. However, the form to be completed and submitted will always be the DS-82, not the DS-11. A woman whose name has changed since her original passport was issued will need to submit a marriage certificate as well.

Passport Assistance

The government agency sponsoring your trip will be able to help you complete your passport application. Some agencies and branches, such as the U.S. Army, require you to fill everything out online, and there is a process in place to assist you. Remember that even official passports take several weeks to process. Apply for your passport as soon as you know you will travel overseas, and expect to wait at least two to four weeks for your red passport.