Passport Application at the Post Office

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June 21, 2023

In 2022, the U.S. Postal Service accepted 7.56 million passport applications, raking in more than $337 million in revenue.

Whether you’re planning a vacation abroad, attending an emergency family matter, or want a government-issued ID, there are several benefits to sending your passport application through a post office rather than visiting a traditional passport center.

One, it’s convenient. Over 7,000 acceptance facilities like post offices across the United States accept passport applications on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, many of which even offer on-site services.

In addition, unlike passport agencies, post offices are available in almost every community throughout the United States, making them much more accessible.

You can expedite your passport application at the post office. Standard processing typically takes around 10 to 13 weeks. But applying at a post office may allow you to speed up the process to 7 to 9 weeks without additional fees for execution or acceptance.

With its conveniences, availability, and speed, it’s easy to see why post offices are a top choice for passport applications for many Americans. This article explores the post office passport application process, including the necessary documents and a step-by-step guide.

Fortunately, we can make your passport application easier with our post office location tool. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find and connect with the nearest post office in in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, New York, and other states in the U.S.

Passports

A U.S. passport is a government-issued document that identifies and certifies your citizenship and allows international travel. You can get a passport through an acceptance facility like a post office, passport agency, or mail.

Whether you’re applying for a passport for the first time, renewing one, or getting one for a minor like your child, where you apply depends on how fast you need a passport service to be and the passport form you’re submitting.

First-time Passports

If you’ve never had a U.S. passport, are under 16, or cannot renew an existing passport by mail, you’re a first-time applicant. Fortunately, obtaining your passport for the first time is straightforward.

To start the passport application process, you must gather the necessary documents early, including your birth certificate, proof of identity, passport photo, and completed application form (Form DS-11). Then, schedule an appointment.

However, not all post offices offer passport services. Check out FindPostOffice.org’s extensive database of over 31,000 post offices in the U.S. to determine which ones in your area do.

Renewing Passports

Similar to submitting a passport application for the first time, you can conveniently renew one, thanks to the services offered at most post offices. That said, not everyone can renew their passport by mail.

To qualify for passport renewals by mail, you must meet the eligibility criteria defined by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

Next, prepare your application package, including the completed renewal application (Form DS-82), your current passport, passport photo, and payment.

Passports for Minors

While you can complete passport applications for children under 16 at a post office, there are specific requirements you must meet to ensure their safety and proper documentation. First, both parents or legal guardians must give consent.

The best practice is for parents or guardians to accompany the minor during the application process. If you’re a parent or guardian, you must also provide documentation, such as a birth certificate, adoption decree, or parental right court order to establish your relationship with the minor.

Additionally, passports for minors under 16 are valid for five years only. Unlike adult passports, a child’s passport isn’t renewable, and you or the minor will need to apply for a new one when it expires.

What Documents Do I Need for a Passport?

To successfully apply for a passport, you must ensure that the following documents are in order.

  • Fill out the passport application form (Form DS-11 for first-time applicants; Form DS-82 for renewals).
  • Present a copy of your primary citizenship evidence, such as a U.S. birth certificate or abstract.
  • If you’re born outside the U.S., you can submit a Consular Certification of Birth.
  • If you don’t have primary proof of citizenship, you can use a Letter of No Record or a delayed birth certificate as secondary evidence.
  • If you’re born outside the country and have no primary citizenship evidence, your parent’s evidence of U.S. citizenship or your permanent residency can serve as secondary proof.
  • Present a physical form of government-issued photo identification document, such as a valid driver’s license or naturalization certificate.
  • Prepare a colored passport photo that clearly shows your face.
  • Pay the application fee. Accepted methods may include money order, debit card, or credit card.

Visit the Department of State’s official website for a complete list of the documents you’ll need for a passport application. 

Alternatively, you can go to your nearest post office. Check out FindPostOffice.org to find the closest one that accepts passport services.

How Do You Make an Appointment for a Passport?

While some passport acceptance facilities offer walk-in services, others may require you to schedule an appointment. 

You can use USPS Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler for first-time passport application appointments.

You can also contact the DOS or the National Passport Information Center by calling 1-877-487-2778. Note that the need for an appointment may vary depending on your location and circumstances.

Some passport acceptance facilities, like post offices, have dedicated time windows for appointments and other passport services. 

You can contact your nearest post office using FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool to learn more about their current passport operations.

How Quickly Do You Need a Passport?

In certain situations requiring a passport urgently, expedited services are available to meet your needs. Whether it’s a life-or-death emergency, urgent travel within ten weeks, or a fast passport renewal, the post office can expedite processing.

Life-or-death Emergency

In the unfortunate event of a life-or-death emergency, such as the passing of a family member or if they’re in critical condition, the State Department may allow you to expedite the application process.

To proceed with the application process, you must schedule an appointment date that falls within 72 hours of your emergency travel. You’ll still need to meet Life-or-death emergency eligibility requirements to qualify for expedited passport processing.

Urgent Travel in Less Than 10 Weeks

Suppose you have imminent travel plans that fall within fewer than ten weeks. In that case, you may also expedite your passport application. You must schedule an appointment date that aligns with the three business days requirement before departure.

Provide the necessary documentation, pay the expedited service fee, and indicate the urgency of your travel when you submit your application. The DOS limits the availability of appointments for U.S. citizens traveling internationally within the next 72 hours.

Renew Your Passport Fast

When renewing your passport, you can opt for expedited processing to receive your new passport in a shorter timeframe of 7-9 weeks instead of the standard window of 10-13 weeks. You can mail your application with Priority Mail Express for $60.

Apply for a First-Time Passport

If you’re applying for a passport for the first time or you’re ineligible to renew your existing passport by mail, you must follow these steps:

Step 1: Gather Documents Early

Collect the required documents, including your birth certificate, proof of identity, completed Form DS-11 application, and passport photo. You must submit your application in person at a post office.

To find a postal service facility that offers passport services, visit FindPostOffice.org.

Step 2: Prepare Your Application Package

Ensure that you have all the necessary documents organized and ready for submission. Double-check that you have both original copies and photocopies as required.

It’s important to note that you must not sign your application without a witness. A postal employee witness is required when you sign and submit your application.

Step 3: Schedule an Appointment

Although some passport acceptance facilities allow you to walk in, scheduling an appointment can help you avoid unnecessary wait times and ensure a smooth application process.

You can go to a post office offering passport services or visit one that provides self-service kiosks. Alternatively, you can use USPS’s appointment scheduling tool.

Step 4: Pay Passport Acceptance & Processing Fees

When you apply, be prepared to pay the required fees, including the application acceptance and passport processing fees. Passport fees are $35, with an additional $15 if you need a photo service.

You can pay the fees in person at the post office via money orders or checks payable to “Postmaster,” debit cards, or credit cards. Note that there are State Department fees that you’ll need to pay as well. You can use DOS’s fee calculator tool to determine what to expect.

Application Status Updates

Once you’ve submitted your passport application, you can track its progress through the Department of State’s Online Passport Status System. This convenient service lets you stay informed about your application status and estimated processing times as early as two weeks after you apply.

Post Office Passport Renewal Overview

Unlike standard passport applications, post offices handle renewals differently. Renewing your passport through a post office can make the process much more convenient, especially if you live far from a passport acceptance agency.

That said, post offices don’t process or issue passports themselves. Instead, the postal service allows you to submit applications for passport renewal and other related services.

Changes Due to COVID-19

You can renew your passport from any post office without an appointment- at least previously. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been changes in how post offices accept passport renewal applications.

Since March 2020, the Postal Service has implemented an appointment-based system for processing passport applications. To renew your passport at a post office, you must make an appointment using a self-service kiosk or USPS’s scheduling tool.

However, COVID-19 restrictions and walk-in policies can differ from post office location to location. You can check FindPostOffice.org’s extensive post office database to determine how facilities in your area handle appointment procedures for passport renewals.

How to Renew a Passport at the Post Office

If you’ve decided that renewing your passport at a post office is the best option, following the steps is essential for a smooth process.

Step 1: Check Your Eligibility to Renew by Mail

Some passport renewals may not be eligible for post office processing. To renew your passport by mail, you must meet all the following criteria:

  • You have the passport and can submit it with your application.
  • The passport is undamaged, except for normal “wear and tear.”
  • The passport was issued to you when you were 16 or older.
  • Your passport must’ve been issued within the past 15 years.
  • Your passport should be in your current legal name, or you must have an official name change documentation.

If your passport fails to meet these requirements, you cannot proceed with a post office renewal. In such cases, you must prepare the same application package as if applying for a passport for the first time.

Step 2: Prepare Your Application Package

If you qualify for post office passport renewal, you must gather the necessary documents and prepare your application package. This process involves completing Form DS-82 (Passport Renewal Application), printing and signing it, having a passport photo taken, and paying the renewal fee.

Step 3: Mail Your Renewal Application

Carefully package your application materials, including your current or expired passport, in a large envelope. 

The DOS recommends sending your renewal application through a USPS delivery tracking service, such as Delivery Confirmation, Signature Confirmation, or same-day delivery Priority Mail.

Step 4: Follow Your Application Progress

Once you’ve submitted your renewal application, you can track its progress using USPS’s tracking services. Doing so allows you to stay informed about the processing timeline of your application and the additional steps required.

4 Tips for Renewing Your Passport at the Post Office

To make your passport renewal experience smooth and hassle-free, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Schedule an Appointment at the Post Office

Avoid long wait times by scheduling an appointment at your local passport acceptance facility. By doing so, you’ll receive dedicated assistance and reduce any potential delays.

  1. Choose Your Appointment Time Wisely

Consider selecting an appointment time as early as possible or during off-peak hours to minimize waiting and ensure a more personalized experience.

Choosing an appointment schedule is especially crucial if you’re visiting a post office located in a busy city that typically has heavy traffic. Use FindPostOffice.org’s facility locator to avoid active locations.

  1. Double-check Your Documents

Before heading to the post office, double-check that you have all the required documents. This step includes reviewing your completed application form, current passport, passport photo, and any additional supporting documents.

Inspecting your documents beforehand will save you unnecessary delays and ensure a smooth renewal experience.

  1. Get Your Photo Taken at the Passport Office

Check if your local post office offers photo services. If they do, take advantage of this convenience to save time. Having your passport photo taken on-site can streamline the passport application process and ensure your photo meets the requirements.

Renewing a Passport at the Post Office Next Steps

After renewing your passport at the post office, you can start planning your international travel with peace of mind. Remember to keep your passport secure and check its expiration date periodically to avoid any last-minute complications.

U.S. State Department Website

For additional and more comprehensive, up-to-date passport information, updates on processing times, and frequently asked questions (FAQs), visit the U.S. Department of State’s website at travel.state.gov.

Lost or Stolen Passports

If your passport gets lost or stolen, you must report it immediately to the DOS, nearest consular office, or passport agency. You can do so by filing a report online or sending mail through a post office.

You must submit a Form DS-11 at a passport acceptance facility to replace a lost or stolen passport. If you’re outside the U.S., you can contact your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

References

  1. USPS Postal Facts
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  2. Where to Apply
    https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply
  3. Important Updates on Passport Processing
    https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/passports/
  4. Passports
    https://www.usps.com/international/passports
  5. USPS Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Retail-Customer-Appointment-Schedule