Expat Living – How To Get Your First U.S. Passport in 5 Easy Steps!

If you want to live as a digital nomad, expat or simply want to travel outside of the US, you have to get your US passport in order to leave the country.  In the future, a passport will be required for domestic travel within the U.S. according to the REAL ID act.

January 22nd, 2018: This is the official date that the REAL ID Act will be enforced. If at this point, you hold a license from a state that still has not complied with the REAL ID Act, you will need to bring an alternate form of identification. However, if your state is compliant but has not been able to issue new licenses in time to meet this deadline, your regular license will still be accepted.

Getting a passport doesn’t have to be difficult. It just takes patience and staying organized.  In a few weeks you will receive your passport to begin living the travel lifestyle!

To help take make it easier for you, I have broken down the process of getting a U.S. Passport into these simple steps.  I can assure you that the process is pain-free, and is much easier than you think.


How to get your first u.s. passport

Checklist:  What You Need To Get A US Passport

Step 1 – Proof Of Citizenship

If you were born in the United States, then you will need to find your Birth Certificate to show proof of citizenship.

Your evidence must be an original or certified copy. Photocopies and notarized copies are not acceptable.

  • Fully valid, undamaged U.S. passport (may be expired)
  • U.S. birth certificate that meets the following requirements:
    • Issued by the city, county, or state of birth
    • Lists applicant’s full name, date of birth, and place of birth
    • Lists the parent(s)’ full names
    • Has the date filed with registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth)
    • Has the registrar’s signature
    • Has the seal of the issuing authority
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
  • Certificate of Citizenship

If you don’t have your original copy, contact the city, county or state where you were born.  You will pay a small fee to have the original copy mailed to your, but these are documents you should always have safely stored away.

Step 2 – Get Your Passport Photo Made

You need 2 photos for your passport. I recommend that you get several photos to keep for future needs, like visas. Some countries require passport photos to acquire a visa.

While some countries have particular photo requirements, many are similar. So it is best to have some extras made that you can carry around in your Passport Wallet.  I have had to pull these out many times during our travels — so they are really handy to keep around.  And it saves you the hassle of having to get one made while on the road, or each time you need a visa.

20170314_120953
We took these visa photos at print shop in Chiang Mai.

Step 3 – Pay The Fees

Travel cost. There’s no way around this.  For the longest time, I put off getting my passport because I was too cheap to pay the fees.  I had no real excuse and one day I decided to make it a priority to get my passport.

It’s the only way to begin your travel journey.  If you are serious about becoming a digital nomad, expat or simply want to travel more, a passport is the first step to start your journey!

The current fees for a new US passport are shown below.

Note: Visit the US passport website before applying to confirm the most up to date fee adjustments. 

  • For anyone over 16 years of age, the total cost is $110 USD (paid to the department of state)+ $25 acceptance fee (to facility processing it).
  • For anyone under 16 years of age, the total cost is $80 USD (paid to the department of state)+ $25 acceptance fee (to facility processing it).

The passport fees must be paid in cash or money order.  You will need to have two separate checks/money orders. The first will have to be made out to Department of State, covering that application fee and the second made payable to where you are applying to.

Step 4 – Fill Out The Application

The most important step for getting your first USA Passport is correctly filling out the Passport Application. It’s relatively easy, but you want to make sure to take your time in filling it out. You don’t want to have to redo it, or have to postpone your trip because of a missing section.

You can fill out the application online and print it off, or you can print a hard copy (PDF version) and hand write it out (only if you have good handwriting!). You can also go to your local post office to get the form and fill it out there.

Step 5 – Visit A Passport Acceptance Facility & Get Your Passport!

Once you have completed the above steps, you are ready to drop it off at an acceptance facility.  But before mailing, be sure to double-check everything.

  • Application? 
  • Payment?
  • Passport Photos? 
  • Proof of Citizenship?

When you are ready to turn your application in, you must go to an “Acceptance Facility.”   The most convenient place to turn it all in to is your local post office.

I submitted my passport application at the post office near my office.

post offcie

In my case, I visited the post office and scheduled an appointment with the mail clerk.  She wrote my appointment time in an old-fashioned scheduling book.  Unfortunately, they don’t take appointments by phone or online, you must appear in person to set it up.

This was the easiest way for me since it was close to my job, I just went on my lunch break.  The entire appointment took only 20 minutes to submit my application, proof of residence, and pay the required fees.

Note:  All applicants must appear in person.  If you are applying for a minor’s passport, the minor needs to have their own scheduled appointment and they must be present.

I learned this the hard way and had to reschedule for my son.  Unfortunately, the appointments are only during the weekdays so I had to take him out of school to attend the appointment.  It was well worth it in the end!


Processing Times

The processing times below apply to all passport services.

ROUTINE SERVICE Approximately 6-8 weeks from the time of application, including mailing time.
EXPEDITED SERVICE Approximately 2-3 weeks from the time of application, including mailing time.

Need it faster?

If you are traveling within 2 weeks or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks, you should make an appointment at a passport agency or center. The passport agency or center will specify when you will get your new passport. See Get a Passport in a Hurry.

Already applied for a passport?


Check Online

Access the Online Passport Status System to check your application status. It takes 7-10 business days for applications to be trackable online.

By Phone
Call the National Passport Information Center to check your application status at 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 (TDD/TTY) between the following hours:
Monday- Friday            8:00 am to 10:00 pm Eastern Time
    Saturday                     10:00 am to 3:00 pm Eastern Time
*Excluding Federal Holidays


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Are you interested in traveling more in 2017? Take the first step by getting your passport! Have any advice on travel, please comment below! If you have questions or need advice about setting up your first trip abroad, reach out to me! I’m happy to help!

Peace & Good Vibes! 

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2 thoughts on “Expat Living – How To Get Your First U.S. Passport in 5 Easy Steps!

  1. Send in good will lit pics, or els there will be a delay. My passport was delayed because of that even tho, I took the pic at Walgreens twice. I ended up looking up a YouTube d.i.y. and took my own pictures, and guess what no problems. Have enough time for unforeseen issues like this.

    Liked by 1 person

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