Every U.S. citizen must have a passport in order to travel abroad. Most find it fairly easy to provide all of the necessary documents and other information required by passport officials. However, some people can't obtain a U.S. birth certificate. Passport acceptance facilities typically ask for a birth certificate as proof of citizenship. However, you can receive a U.S. passport without giving a certified birth certificate, as long as you give sufficient information in its place.

Print and complete Forms DS-10 and DS-11. Both are available from the U.S. Department of State website. You can complete them online before printing them out, or print out the blank forms and fill in the blanks manually. Form DS-10 must be completed by a person who was alive when you were born and who has a close relationship with you. Don't sign Form DS-11 until an acceptance agent indicates that it's time to do so.

Find a passport acceptance facility in your area, and make an appointment to apply for a passport. Often your local facility is simply a post office or courthouse. You can access a list of the closest passport acceptance facilities from the Department of State website.

Show proof of U.S. citizenship. If you don't have your original birth certificate, you can submit Form DS-10, filled out and signed by a person who has a close relationship with you. It's also helpful to submit documents from your youth to show your full name, approximate date of birth, such as baptism certificates, school records (report cards) or unofficial hospital documents.

Show a valid form of identification/proof of identity. This usually means a government-issued picture ID. The State Department accepts a valid driver’s license or state identification card as a proper form of identification to receive a passport. If you work for a local, state or federal government entity, you may show your government ID card. Likewise, if you're in the military, you can show your military ID. You'll also need photocopies of each side of the document.

Submit passport photos. It's best to get photos taken at the application center since there are very strict requirements for them. The photos must be 2 inches by 2 inches in size. They also must be taken against a white background. Your face must be completely visible. The length from the tip of your chin to the top of your head should be between 1 and 1 3/8 inches long. You may wear glasses as long as they're ones that you typically wear.

Pay the current fee for the passport application. It is generally between $100 and $200.

Wait approximately 4 to 6 weeks to receive the passport in the mail. If you need a passport more quickly, you can expedite your passport to speed up processing times.

Things to Know

  • Any name change must be reflected on your passport.
  • Minors need a valid passport for international travel.
  • Information on passports can be found in person at a passport office or the post office, and online on travel.state.gov.
  • Passport fees range depending on what you are ordering. A passport book is $130, a passport card is $30, and a passport book and card is $160.
  • Once your previous passport expires, it no longer counts as a vital record.