Hard copy applications can be obtained at your local library and most post offices. Some post offices also have set hours when they process applications including taking the required two pictures for placement in your passport. To find out if a post office near you offers these services, call ahead or research the internet. All you need to do is type in your zip code and a list of available locations and service options will appear on your screen.
If you don't want to leave your home or office, you can download an application to your computer, print it and fill it out. It is as easy as searching for United States Passport on your internet search engine. Government sponsored sites will be listed as well as commercial websites. If you are on a government site, downloading an application and instructions will be free. There are other sites that will offer you extra guidance to fill out the application and submit it, however, they will charge you a fee to download their instructions and application.
First-time applicants and those who are under age 16 need to submit applications in person. Review the instructions for a list of items you will need to bring with you including two photos, picture identification and an original birth certificate. Do you have a passport that is soon to expire, or already expired? You may be able to renew by mail. As long as you have the expiring or old passport to send in with your application, your name has not changed and it has not been longer than 15 years since it was issued, you can save a trip and won't have to wait in line.
There are several levels of processing depending on when you will be traveling. If you don't have to travel out of the country for a month or more, you can pay the standard fee and follow the routine process. It generally takes between four to six weeks to receive your passport and possibly longer during summer when more people travel. If a trip abroad came up unexpectedly and it is less than four weeks away, apply under the expedited process. This will require an additional fee for overnight delivery with tracking capability. Your passport will be sent to you within two or three weeks and arrive at your home or office via overnight delivery. If a family or work emergency requires you to travel even sooner, you must set up an appointment at a passport agency. These are located in most major cities.
All applications, routine or expedited, first-time or renewal, require a fee. Once issued, your passport is valid for 10 years if you are over 16 and five years if younger. Traveling has become more and more complicated today and having a passport will make things much easier. Even crossing the border to Canada or Mexico, flying to Bermuda or the Caribbean, you need a passport.
When you have to travel quickly, expediting or fast-tracking your application will cost more. It is best not to wait till the last minute to apply. If your company requires you to go on a trip or conducts regular business outside the U. S., there may be an administrative person dedicated to getting your application processed. If a federal employee, your agency will likely have someone on staff to assist you. You may also notice that your passport cover may be a different color than the those of regular citizens. If you have to handle the process by yourself, ask for fee and picture cost reimbursement for approved work travel.