U.S. Passport Requirements

FAQs - Passports - Returning from Mexico by Land

Passports or other accepted documentation are now highly recommended to return to the U.S. from Mexico by land.

Who has to show a passport or another accepted document, and what about children?

In a nutshell, U.S. and Canadian citizens older than 16 years old have to show a passport, passport card or another accepted document to cross back into the U.S. Children under 16 may show an original or copy of their birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, a Canadian Citizenship Card or a passport if they have one. Learn more.

Won't my driver's license and birth certificate work like before?

Maybe. If your drivers license is an Enhanced Driver's License from New York, Vermont, Washington, Michigan, Qu├ębec, British Columbia, Manitoba, or Ontario it will be accepted. At this time drivers licenses from California, Arizona, Texas and the rest of the U.S. states are not enhanced. You may use a driver's license and birth certificate to cross back into the U.S., however we have heard this may create delays at U.S. secondary inspection.

What else is accepted besides a passport?

  1. Passport Card
  2. SENTRI pass
  3. Enhanced Driver's License
  4. FAST program card - for commercial drivers
  5. NEXUS - for crossing between the US and Canada

How do I choose the best document for me?

If you plan on doing any international air travel, a passport is your only option. If you will only cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico by land in your personal vehicle, a passport card is a less expensive alternative to a passport. If you would like the added benefit of a dedicated commuter lane for speedier entry into the U.S., consider the SENTRI pass.

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How do I apply for a passport?

It depends on whether or not you are applying for the first time. If you are applying for your very first passport, you will have to make an appointment at your nearest passport agency to submit your application in person. If you are just renewing your passport, you may be eligible to renew it through the mail. Learn how to obtain a passport from a U.S. Post Office.

How do I know if I need to apply for my passport in person?

You will need to apply for your passport in person if...

  1. This is your first time applying for a passport
  2. Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen or damaged
  3. Your previous U.S. passport has expired, and was issued more than 15 years ago
  4. Your previous U.S. passport has expired, and was issued before you turned 16 years old
  5. Your name has changed since your original passport was issued, and you don't have a legal document formally changing your name
  6. You are a minor under the age of 17

Do I have to make an appointment to get a passport, or can I just drop by my local passport facility after work?

If you need to apply for your passport in person or if you need your passport processed within two weeks, you DO need to make an appointment. All passport agencies take applications by appointment only, so you should call in advance. Most of the agencies in the US are open between 9am and 4pm, although some offices do close at 3:30pm. The good news is that there is no charge for an appointment at any passport agency. Don't pay anybody (or any business) that tries to charge you for your appointment!

All right, I made my appointment to get a passport. Do I need to bring anything special for my application?

Yes, there are several things that you should bring with you to your appointment.

  • First of all, you need to download your "Application for Passport" Form DS-11. You can download it here
  • Next, you will need to bring present proof of US citizenship. This proof may include a valid birth certificate, an expired passport (as long as it is not mutilated or damaged in any way), a consular report of birth abroad, a naturalization certificate, a certificate of citizenship, etc.
  • If you don't have either a previous passport or a birth certificate, please click here to find out what alternative forms of identification may work to prove US citizenship.
  • You will also need to bring along proof of your identity. You can prove your identity with a previous US passport, a naturalization certificate, or a current (valid) US driver's license, government ID (city/state/federal) or military ID (military/dependents).
  • If you do not have any of these things, please click here to find out what alternative forms of identification may prove your identity.
  • You'll need to have two passport photos. They should be 2x2 inches, identical to each other, taken within the last 6 months (showing how you look right now), in color, showing your full face from a front view with a plain white or off-white background, and between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. You should also be wearing normal street clothes (no uniforms, etc.) For further information about acceptable photos, please click here.
  • Finally, you'll have to bring along some money! The current prices for routine passport services are as follows: Passports for all US citizens aged 16 and over cost $55. The security surcharge is $12. The execution fee is $30. So, your total will be $97. Passports for all US citizens under the age of 16 is $40. The security surcharge is $12. The execution fee is $30. So, your total will be $82.

Acceptable forms of payment vary from agency to agency. You should call your local agency first, before showing up for your appointment.

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What if I just have to renew my passport? Do I still need to go into the office, or can I do it by mail?

You can renew your passport by mail if...

  1. You already have a passport that is not damaged AND
  2. You received it within the past 15 years AND
  3. You were at least 16 years old when it was issued AND
  4. You still have the same name that was in your old passport (or you can legally document your name change).

ALL of this must be true, in order for you to renew by mail. There are a couple of exceptions where you will need to go into a passport agency to renew, even if you meet the above conditions.

  • if you are a US citizen living abroad, you must renew your passport at the nearest US Embassy or US Consulate.
  • passports renewed by mail in the US may only be mailed to US addresses.
  • if you mutilate or alter your US passport, you have invalidated it and are risking possible prosecution under the law (Section 1543 of Title 22 of the US Code).
  • if your passport has been mutilated, altered or damaged, you cannot apply by mail. You must apply in person.

If I'm eligible to renew my passport by mail, what do I need to do?

First, you should download the DS-82 form from this site.

Next, attach to it your most recent passport, two identical passport photos, and a $67 fee payable to the US Department of State. If your name has changed since you got your last passport, you should also attach a certified copy of the legal document specifying your name change (for example, your marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree or court order). FYI - they won't accept photocopies. It has to be the original!

Mail all of this together in a padded envelope to:

National Passport Center
P.O. Box 371971
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7971

How long is getting a new passport going to take?

If you go through the general application process, as of June 19th, turn around times are four to six weeks for the US Department of State to process your passport.

I need to get my passport in a hurry, what can I do?

There are a couple of options. You may choose expedited service for an additional $60 fee. For turn around times, click here. If that is not fast enough, consider a passport service. Some offer service as fast as 24 hours.

Do I need to bring anything special if I am applying for a passport for my child?

Yes, here are the basic steps:

First off, all minors who are US Citizens must apply for their passports IN PERSON.

In addition, in order to get a passport for a child under the age of 14, both parents or the child's legal guardians must appear and present all of the following:

  • Evidence of the child's US citizenship
  • Evidence of the child's relationship to parents/guardians AND
  • Parental Identification.

If only one parent appears, you must also submit the following:

  • A notarized written statement by the second parent, consenting to passport issuance for the child,
  • Primary evidence of sole authority to apply, OR
  • A notarized written statement (made under penalty of perjury) which explains the second parent's unavailability.

How much do passports and passport cards cost?

Here are the current rates for routine passport services:

  • Ages 16 and over - $100
  • Kids under 16 - $85

Rates for passport cards:

  • Ages 16 and over - $45
  • Kids under 16 - $35

Passports issued to citizens aged 16 or over last for ten years! If you think about it, that brings the price of purchasing and using your US passport down to around $10 per year.

Sources:
US Department of State - www.travel.state.gov
Dept of Homeland Security - http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=4434
Commercial Carrier Journal Magazine - http://www.etrucker.com/apps/news/article.php?id=46975
Search Security.Com http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci211666,00.html