Why is it that priceless experiences tend to be so expensive? That's definitely the case when it comes to international travel. Getting a U.S. passport costs more than $100, even when it's a renewal. Paying the passport execution fee brings the price up by an additional $35. But it's only mandatory in some situations, so don't say goodbye to that money just yet. Whether an applicant is charged the execution fee depends on the type of service that's needed.

What Is the Purpose of the Passport Execution Fee?

Think of it like a service fee. When an American submits an application at a passport acceptance facility – a designation used by many post offices, local courts and other government offices – a clerk has to examine the person's identification and other documents and provide some other processing services. The government uses the execution fee as a way to recoup the costs associated with offering those services. The fee was raised from $25 to $35 in April 2018, after the U.S. Department of State determined that $25 wasn't enough to cover those costs.

While application fees always go to the Department of State, the execution fee must be paid separately to the passport acceptance facility. The only exception involves passport agencies. An applicant who has pressing international travel plans can make an appointment at the nearest passport agency. They're primarily located in major cities. At a passport agency, all required fees are payable to the Department of State, including the execution fee.

Do I Have to Pay the Execution Fee?

Whether an applicant is charged the execution fee depends on the situation. Anyone who uses form DS-11, which requires the applicant to go to a passport acceptance facility in person, always has pay the fee. These include children under 16, who must always apply for passports in person (even for renewals), and first-time adult applicants.

If they don't meet the criteria to apply for a renewal by mail, adults who already have passports sometimes have to pay the fee. For example, an adult who isn't able to find his current passport and therefore can't submit it with his renewal application will have to fill out DS-11, appear in person at a passport acceptance facility, and pay the execution fee. But an adult who does meet the criteria for renewal by mail must fill out form DS-82, which doesn't require an execution fee.

If you aren't sure which fees apply to you, the easiest way to figure it out is to use the Department of State's fee calculator.

How Do I Pay the Execution Fee? 

If you're applying using form DS-11, the clerk who reviews the application and supporting documents will provide instructions for paying the execution fee. Different facilities accept different types of payments. All locations accept money orders. Some take personal checks and cash in exact change. Some locations, including post offices, take credit cards. (For application fees, money orders and checks are the only acceptable forms of payment.) Plan to pay the fee with a money order, or call the acceptance facility ahead of time for specific guidance.