If you've ever heard the expression "First times are hard times," it also applies to getting a passport. The first time you apply for a passport, you must apply in person using the form DS-11. The form, available online, isn't very hard to fill out. But when you go to the passport office, you'll also need to bring documentary proof of your identity and citizenship with you, as well as a passport photo plus the means to pay the hefty passport application fee.
It's not hard to fill out the DS-11 form to apply for a U.S. passport. It simply asks for your basic information like name, birth date, address, parental information and your physical description.
When to Use DS-11
You must use the DS-11 form, and submit the form in person, the very first time you get a passport. Usually, you can renew a time-expired passport by mail with a DS-82 form, but in some cases you'll need to use the DS-11 form again.
For example, a passport for a child is only valid for five years, not 10 years like an adult passport. And you can't use the renewal option if you were under 16 years old when you got your prior passport. You'll have to use the DS-11 again.
Likewise, you'll need the DS-11 if you can't produce your prior passport to send in with a DS-82 form renewal application. If your passport was lost or stolen, it's DS-11 time. If you have the passport but it was badly damaged, you need to go the DS-11 route as well. Finally, you must use DS-11 if your prior passport expired more than 15 years ago.
How to Fill in DS-11
As long as you aren't trying for the world speed record in filling out a DS-11 form, you shouldn't have much trouble. You have to fill in your name, gender, home address, mailing address and other contact information. You'll also need date of birth, place of birth, Social Security number and all other names you have used.
The second page of the application asks for the names and birth information of your parents as well as a current or most recent spouse. You'll also need to insert physical description information like hair color, eye color, height and weight. There is a space to describe any immediate travel plans. You also can add an emergency contact.
How to Apply
Visit a passport acceptance facility during business hours. Many of these are in local post offices, and you can find a list of them by doing a search on the internet. It pays to call ahead for an appointment if that is possible, but some facilities take clients on a first-come-first-served basis.
When it's your turn, you'll need to take an oath that the information you have put into the application is true to the best of your knowledge, sign the application, show necessary documentary evidence like a driver's license to prove identity and a birth certificate to prove citizenship. If you haven't had a photo done, you can usually have them take one for you for an extra fee, then pay up for everything. You should receive your passport in the mail in four to six weeks.