How to get a passport

Many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months from your return date. If you’re leaving soon and your passport is set to expire before then, it’s time to get it renewed.

Below is some helpful information to help you get a U.S. passport in two weeks or less.

If you need a new passport:It takes two to three weeks to renew an expired or expiring passport by mail when you pay an extra $60 to expedite it. This expedited fee is added to the renewal fee cost ($105 for 15 and younger, $110 for 16 and older).

If this will be your FIRST passport:You’ll need to drop your application off at a passport acceptance facility, like a local post office or library. It will arrive in two to three weeks, if you pay the $60 expedite fee, in addition to the general application fee ($105 for 15 and younger, $135 for 16 and older).

If you have less than two weeks until your trip, there’s an even faster option:If you live near a regional passport agency, you can apply for your first passport or renew an expired or expiring one in person. The estimated processing time is eight days. Some reports indicate that it can even be done in less than 24 hours!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Find your nearest passport agency.
  2. Schedule an appointment online. You can also call the call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 to schedule an in-person appointment. If there aren’t any appointments before your trip, go to the office and stand in line. It could take a while.
  3. Fill out form DS-11 online to print or print a PDF to fill out by hand ahead of time.
  4. Make copies of the front and back of your citizenship evidence, like your birth certificate, and government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license, on separate 8.5×11 pieces of paper. (A current, undamaged passport will work for both.) You must bring both to your appointment.
  5. Print out your travel documents (your e-ticket confirmation) that prove you’re leaving in less than two weeks.
  6. Bring two photos of yourself. You can get passport photos at your local pharmacy, or you can take one at home. But no selfies! Here are some photo examples and a video with instructions.
  7. Head to your appointment! Don’t forget your completed application, copies of your citizenship doc, photo ID, travel docs, passport photo, and credit card, checkbook, or exact cash. Passport agencies take all forms of payment. Here’s the fee chart.
  8. Get your passport and have an incredible adventure!

If you don’t live near a passport agency, try calling the National Passport Information Center for more information. You may have to hire a third-party expeditor, which can cost up to $500. They’re the ones that come up when you google something like “how to get a passport quickly,” but be wary.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated to reflect current information. 

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Passport Prices & Fees

As of April 2nd, 2018, the cost of a passport has gone up.  The U.S. State Department approved a $10 increase in the execution fee, which goes to the passport office that takes your application.

Passport Type Standard Fee (4-6 weeks) Acceptance Agent Fee Total Passport Fees*
New Adult Passport $110 $35 $145
Passport Renewal $110 NA $110
Replacement Passport (lost, stolen, damaged) $110 $35 $145
Child (Minor) Passport $80 $35 $115
Passport Card (Adult) $30 $35 $65
Passport Card (Child) $15 $35 $50
Second Duplicate Passport $110 NA $110

*Expedited passport processing is available for travelers with upcoming travel plans. Expect the time frame to be 3 weeks. An additional $60 is required for the expedited government fee.

Types of German Citizenship

Becoming a German citizen is not possible under all circumstances. There are three general instances that can lead to you getting German citizenship.

    • By naturalization
    • By right of blood or in Latin Jus Sanguinis
    • By right of soil or in Latin Jus Soli

Getting citizenship by naturalization implies that you have fulfilled certain requirements that the German government has set and you qualify to apply for German citizenship. The other type, by right of blood or Jus Sanguinis means that you get German citizenship if you are a direct descendant of German citizens. This includes only your parents and no other relatives. By right of soil or Jus Soli means that you are born within the borders of Germany, so in German soil and that is how you get your citizenship.

All people with the exception of EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals, must fulfill requirements and fall into one of these categories for getting German citizenship.

Despite these three instances being quite straightforward, each one of them has its own rules and regulations, which we will discuss further.

German Naturalization

German naturalization means that after a certain period of living in Germany as a permanent resident, you apply to become a citizen. There are many restrictions and requirements for obtaining naturalization, so not everyone can get it.

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German Citizenship Requirements for Naturalization

The requirements that you need to fulfill in order to qualify for naturalization are as follows:

  • You must have lived in Germany on a residence permit for at least 8 years, or
  • You must have lived in Germany on a residence permit for 7 years and attended an integration course (this becomes 6 years on special integration circumstances)
  • You must prove German language proficiency of at least B1
  • You must be financially able to support yourself and your family without any help from the state
  • You must be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record
  • You must pass a citizenship test
  • You must renounce any previous citizenships

Your residence records are in the government system so that will be an easy requirement to fulfill. For financial stability, you can submit bank statements and other documents, which state your financial situation. In addition, you must give up all previous citizenships, except if the other country does not allow it or it is impossible to give it up. This is the case with many countries in conflict, such as Syria.

One of the most important requirements in this case, which you must prove through testing is your language proficiency. You can prove that you know German up to the B1 level required by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, by providing any of these documents:

  • A German language certificate such as the Zertifikat Deutsch
  • A certification that you have obtained through an integration course, such as the “DTZ – German test for immigrants”
  • A certificate which proves you have completed a German secondary school
  • Admissions proof in a German upper secondary school
  • A certificate which proves you have completed at least 4 years of school in German with a passing grade
  • Proof of completion of higher education degrees in German

If you do not have any document, which proves your language proficiency, you can complete a government language test administered by your citizenship authority. Either way, you must know German in order to be eligible for naturalization or any other type of German citizenship.  

How to apply for German Citizenship Naturalization?

If you can prove that you meet all the requirements for naturalization, you can begin your application process. All persons over the age of 16 are obliged to apply. Parents and legal guardians of children under 16 years old apply for them. The steps to applying for naturalization are as follows:

Get an application form

Since Germany is a big country, each state and place has their immigration office to apply for naturalization. To begin the process, you must get a naturalization application form from one of the following places:

  • The local immigration office
  • If you live in an urban area, go to the city council
  • If you live in a German district, go to the regional district office
  • The town council or any other local authorities

Fill the application form and start compiling a file with all documents, which prove you meet the requirements.

Pass the German Citizenship Test

To prove that you are ready to gain German citizenship, you must pass the citizenship test. This test includes 33 multiple choice questions on German living, society, rules, and laws, as well as questions specific to the place you live. The test takes one hour and you must answer at least 17 questions correctly to pass the test. When you pass the test, you will get a naturalization certificate, which you can add to your document file.

To prepare for the test, you can take an integration course, use the practice test options of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, or simply read more information on German life and laws.

You can be exempt from the naturalization test if you belong to any of these groups:

  • You cannot take the test due to old age, illness, or disability
  • You are under 16 years old
  • You have a higher education degree from a German university in politics, law, or social sciences

Pay the naturalization fees

There are also certain fees associated with applying for German citizenship through naturalization. These are the fees you must pay:

  • Application form for 255 Euros for adults
  • Application form for 51 Euros for children under 16 years old
  • Naturalization/Citizenship test for 25 Euros
  • Citizenship certificate for 25 Euros

Submit all documents

Take the documents which prove you meet naturalization requirements, your application form, the receipts that you have paid all fees, and your naturalization certificate to the office from which you have taken the application form. The officers will go through your case and if approved, you will get the citizenship certificate. The certificate now proves that you are a citizen of Germany and not just a permanent resident.

German citizenship by Birth

If you do not have German parents, but are born within the borders of Germany, you qualify for citizenship by birth or by right of soil. This is also the Jus Soli citizenship. You can get this type of citizenship on the following conditions:

  • If at least one of your parents has lived in Germany for at least 8 years before the birth of the child
  • If at the time the child is born, one of the parents had a permanent residence permit

In getting this type of citizenship, the child will again have to choose the citizenship of the parents or the citizenship of Germany between the ages of 18 and 23 years old. The child must give up the nationalities of the parents in order to get the German one, or apply for dual citizenship.

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Only children born after February 2nd, 1990, have the right to get this type of citizenship.

German Dual Citizenship

Having a Germany dual citizenship is not an easy task. You cannot have dual citizenship in Germany unless you belong to one of these groups:

  • You are from an EU country or the former Soviet Union
  • You are from a country which does not allow you to give up your citizenship
  • You are an ethnic German
  • You have parents from the U.S
  • You have obtained permission from the German authorities to retain another citizenship

You could have a dual citizenship, but the country you live in determines what rights you will have. If you live in Germany, the country considers you a German citizen and you are entitled to German services and consular help. However, if you live in the country of your other citizenship, you cannot take advantage of German services and cannot get any help from the German consulate.

However, this does not mean that you can give up your obligations. In many instances, you might be required to pay taxes in both countries where you have your citizenships as well as complete military service as per German law.

Dual Citizenship USA/Germany

Based on U.S and German law, you can have a citizenship of both countries. This can happen only in the instances where the child is born to one American and one German parent. In this case, the child is not required to give up either nationality and can hold both.

However, if the child lives in the U.S, they might have the citizenship of Germany, but cannot take advantage of German services. The other way around applies as well. U.S and German dual nationals are not exempt from military service, and can be required to file taxes in both countries. In addition, they cannot enter the U.S with a German passport and the other way around. They must present the German passport to enter Germany and the U.S passport to enter the U.S.

In another case, if an American citizen applies for naturalization in Germany, the American will have to give up their U.S citizenship to obtain the German one.

Dual Citizenship Germany/UK

As is the case with dual citizenship for U.S and Germany, the same applies to Germany and the U.K. Children born with one parent from the U.K and one from Germany have the right to retain both citizenships.

With the exit of the U.K from the EU though, the matters have become more complicated for those working and living in Germany with a UK citizenship. Germany allows dual citizenships for EU nationals, but now that the U.K will not be in the EU due to Brexit, what will happen is still unclear.

It has been proposed that UK citizens get dual nationalities for Germany so that they can have freedom of movement within the EU. This remains to be solved and is up to whether Germany will allow U.K citizens who apply for German citizenship to keep their U.K citizenship too.

Giving up the German Citizenship

German rules do not allow its citizens to give up the German citizenship. More specifically, if the German citizen wants to renounce their citizenship to avoid obligation to Germany such as taxes or military service, they will not be allowed to do this. So since you cannot give up the citizenship, you can lose it under these circumstances:

  • If you request it from the German authorities and another country has offered you citizenship
  • If a German child is adopted by a foreigner, they will lose German citizenship
  • If you join the military forces of the country where you hold another citizenship without the permission of the German authorities
  • If you obtain another citizenship, you will lose the German citizenship
  • If your citizenship has been obtained through naturalization and you lose it due to illegal activities

Understanding Passport Cards

Who is Eligible for a Passport Card?

All US citizens are eligible to obtain a passport card. It does not matter if you currently have a valid passport book or not. You can get a passport card even if you have never been issued a passport before.

Where Can You  Go With a Passport Card?

US passport cards can be used to enter Canada or Mexico by land or sea. That means you can use a passport card if you are going to Mexico or Canada by car, bus, train, ferry, yacht, or even on foot!

Your passport card can also be used to enter most Caribbean nations by sea.  The Caribbean island nations that accept the US passport card include Bermuda, Jamaica, Aruba, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Dominican Republic.

No matter where you are going, you will need a passport book if you are traveling internationally by air. Most cruise lines also will want you to have a valid passport book, in case you have to fly home in an emergency.

What Is a Passport Card Used For?

You can use your valid passport ID card for all of the following purposes:

  • You can travel to Canada, Mexico, or most Caribbean nations by land or sea.
  • You can use your passport card as Real ID to board domestic flights in the US or enter US military facilities or federal buildings.
  • Your passport card can be used as an ID card for purposes like buying alcohol, getting a driver’s license, or checking in at the doctor.
  • If you ever lose your passport book, you can use your passport card as proof of citizenship.
  • While you are traveling overseas, you can carry your passport card in your wallet so you can prove your identity and citizenship. You can keep your passport book safe at the hotel if you also have a passport card!
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Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for a Passport Card

1 Gather all required documents

The documents you will need will vary depending on whether you currently hold a valid passport book. You can apply in any one of the following scenarios:

  • Applying for a passport card alone when you already have a valid passport book
  • Applying for a passport card alone when you have never held a US passport
  • Getting a passport card at the same time you are applying for a new passport book (either for an adult or a minor under age 16)
  • Getting a passport card at the same time you are applying for a renewal of your passport book (adults whose passport was issued after they turned 16)

Requirements for Passport Card – Applicants who hold a valid Passport Book

  • Your current US passport – This must be the actual book, not a photocopy
  • Passport Application Form (DS-82), completed offline or filled out online at https://pptform.state.gov/, printed and signed. You will need to select on this application whether you are applying for just a passport card or for both a passport card and a passport book renewal.
  • One passport photo
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license or other state-issued ID (front and back)
  • Passport card fee – A check for $30 ($90 if you need expedited service) made payable to “US Department of State.”
  • Flight itinerary or other proof of travel plans (only required if you need expedited service for a passport card.)

Once you have collected these items, you can proceed to Step Two.

Requirements for Passport Card – Applicants who have not been issued a US Passport (or Minors under age 16)

  • Proof of US Citizenship (birth certificate)
  • New Passport Application Form (DS-11), completed offline or filled out online at https://pptform.state.gov/. You will need to specify on the application whether you are applying only for the passport card or for both a passport book and a passport card.
  • One passport photo
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license or other state-issued ID (front and back). Minors under age 16 will need to submit copies of both parents’ passports or driver’s licenses.
  • Flight itinerary or other proof of travel plans (only required if you need expedited service for the passport card.)
  • Passport card fee – you will need two checks, one for $25 for the Passport Acceptance Agent fee and one made payable to “US Department of State” for $30 ($15 for applicants under age 16.) Add $60 to the US Department of State check if you need expedited service for your passport card.

You will need to appear in person at a Passport Acceptance Agent in order to have your documents reviewed and sealed into an official envelope before you proceed to Step Two. Children under age 16 will need to appear at the Passport Acceptance Agent with both of their parents. (See our Passport for Minors page for more details.) Passport Acceptance Agents are usually found at major post offices or at Clerk of the Court offices. You can find a convenient location at //passportinfo.com/passport-offices/.

2 Have your passport application processed in one of three ways:

  1. By Mail – Your passport card application can be sent in by mail to be processed at the National Passport Center.
  2. At a Passport Agency – If you need expedited service for your passport ID card, you can visit a US Passport Agency in person.
  3. By a Passport Expediting Company – If you really need to get your passport card fast, you can send your application to a reputable passport expediting company for service in as little as 24 hours.

How to Get a Passport Card Fast

Click here to get a Passport CardApplying for a passport card by mail will take up to 8 weeks. If you are also applying for a renewal of your passport book and you opt for expedited service by mail, your passport book will arrive in 2-3 weeks, but your passport card may arrive in a separate envelope several weeks later. Passport cards requested by mail are always shipped back to you via First Class Mail (regular mail).

If you need your passport card in a hurry, the best way to do it is to use the services of a passport expediting company. These companies can get you a passport card in as little as 24 hours.

You can request expedited service by appearing in person at a Passport Agency, but not all Passport Agencies make passport cards on site. You may still need to wait 2 or more weeks for your passport card to be sent to you by mail. There are 26 Passport Agencies across the US, and you must call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 to make an appointment. Many Passport Agencies will not allow you to appear in person unless you have proof of very urgent travel.

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