Obtaining a U.S. passport isn't a difficult process, but the rules set forth by the Department of State are particular and inflexible. Additionally, filling out the required application forms and gathering the necessary documentation can be a little bit of a hassle. The hoops aren't just for jumping through, though; they're in place for national security. The approval process can take up to six weeks, which can make it even more frustrating when a passport is denied. Knowing the common legal reasons for why your new passport or passport renewal didn’t go through should help avoid potential problems.

Failure to Provide Required Information

To get a passport, you fill out Form DS-11. Leaving any information off – including a Social Security number – is one of the most common reasons that cause an application to be denied. Along with the application, you need to provide proof that you're a U.S. citizen in the form of a previous U.S. passport, a certified birth certificate with both parents' full names, a certificate of birth abroad, a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship. Unless your proof of citizenship is a previous passport or naturalization certificate, you must also show a current driver's license or a government or military ID. If you don't have one of these accepted documents, call the U.S. Department of State's passport services department to find out what other documents you can use to prove citizenship. Don't just send in your application without the required forms or the passport application will be rejected.

Illegible Copies

You're required to bring photocopies of the documents you use to apply for your passport, and a passport application can be denied if those copies don't meet precise standards. Use standard-size 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper – the size used by most printers – to make black-and-white copies of documents. Copy the front and back of each document, but only make copies on one side of the paper. If both sides of the document fit on one sheet of paper, that's fine, but larger items go on two separate sheets. Don't reduce the size of documents for copies; it's OK to enlarge documents, but your best bet is to copy materials at their real size. Don't mark, label or write on the photocopies. Make sure copies are clear and easy to read, as an unreadable copy can cause passport denial.

Failure to Pay

Getting a passport comes with an application fee. Failure to pay, paying the wrong amount or paying the wrong way will trigger an application denial. If you're writing a check or using a money order, make it payable to the Department of State. Expect to pay a little over $100 for an adult passport; first-time applications also require payment of a lower execution fee. There may be other applicable fees too, such as those for records searches, expedited service and overnight delivery, so carefully add up all the fees before writing a check. Fill the check out completely and legibly, sign it and double-check it, or it may not be properly processed. Most facilities allow payment with a credit or debit card, and some let you pay with cash in the exact amount required.

Legal Matters

Certain legal issues can result in denial of a passport application. Those in arrears of $2,500 or more in back child support payments are ineligible for a passport. All money owed must be paid through the appropriate state agency, which must then notify the Department of Health and Human Services. Plan ahead; it can take up to three weeks after payment to be fully cleared so that the Department of State can issue a passport.

Minors involved in custody disputes will also not be issued a passport, nor will those who don't have authorization from their parents or legal guardians as required by law. Felons have to check with their parole officer, or appropriate gov official, before applying to be sure a passport can be legally issued. Those with an arrest warrant will also be denied.

If a current passport was revoked, a new one typically won't be issued. Also, individuals who have an unpaid federal loan, or have defaulted on a loan from the Department of State, those subject to certain court orders related to international travel or passport issuance, and those with an extradition request from another country will be denied by the passport agency.

For any complaints, contact your post office or a passport officer about your application process to raise any disputes.