A U.S. passport, required for most international travel, including all international air travel, is issued to American citizens by the U.S. State Department (travel.state.gov). All passport applicants must complete a passport application and submit supporting documentation to the State Department before a passport will be issued. Additional paperwork also must accompany all child applications.
All passport applicants must complete the U.S. State Department's Form DS-11 "Application for a U.S. Passport" before their request will be processed. The form is available on the State Department's website and passport agencies and acceptance facilities across the United States. The application form can be completed using the online form, but then must be printed and then signed in the presence of a passport acceptance agent. If completing it manually, use a black pen. The form requests personal information, such as a current address, parental information, social security number, birth information and a brief physical description.
Proof of Citizenship
Proof of citizenship must be submitted with all passport applications. A previously issued passport; a certified, government-issued birth certificate; a consular report of birth abroad; a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship can be used to prove citizenship. If none of these documents is available, secondary documentation may be provided. Secondary documentation includes early public records, such as a hospital birth certificate or early school records, accompanied by a birth record, birth affidavit or a government-issued letter noting that no birth record can be found.
Proof of Identity
Proof of identity must be presented with all passport applications. Acceptable forms of identification include an existing passport, naturalization certificate, driver's license, military ID card or other current government-issued ID. A photocopy of the identity documents also must accompany the passport application. The copy must be made on a single side of white, letter-size paper and the front and back of the ID must be included. Applicants without proper proof of identity may submit several forms of secondary identification, such as a social security card, credit card and an employee ID, or have an identifying witness swear to their identity.
A Passport Photograph
A single 2-by-2-inch passport photo must be submitted with each application. Passport photos must be in color and taken within the past six months in front of a white or off-white background. Applicants should look directly into the camera with a neutral expression and with the head taking up the majority of the frame. No hats or other hair coverings are allowed, unless you provide a signed statement that the head covering is for religious purposes. Further, you cannot wear glasses, unless you cannot remove them for medical reasons, in which case, you must submit a signed note from your doctor. Everyday dress should be worn in the photo.
Additional Documentation for Children
Children's passport applications for minors under 16, must be accompanied by proof of identity for the parents in lieu of proof of the child's identity. Proof of relationship between the child and her parents or guardian, in the form of a birth certificate, adoption decree or court order, also must be presented. If both parents are not present when the child's application is submitted, proof of sole guardianship or a notarized statement from the absent parent granting permission for a passport to be issued also must accompany the application.