For the movers and shakers among us, those never content with buying off the rack, the Bureau of Consular Affairs offers a number of optional extras — but they don't come free.
As of November 2015, U.S. passports for adults cost $110, plus an added $30 for a passport card; first-timers pay an extra $25 execution fee. For minors, those costs drop to $80 for a passport book and $15 for a card (execution fees stay the same).
Travelers who need a passport in a hurry have a few options. You can request expedited service for an additional $60 fee, which could shave valuable weeks off processing time. To really kick things into high gear, you can spend an extra $14.85 to request overnight delivery. In cases of a life-or-death emergency, contact the National Passport Information Center (NPIC). Beware companies that offer passport rushing or courier services — they don't exert any special pull with Uncle Sam and cannot get your passport any faster (see this list of tips for more useful info).
Frequent travelers might burn through their 17 pages of stamp space before their passports expire. If you're one of them, you can submit your current passport and add pages, in groups of 24, at $82 a throw. For a cheaper option (as in free), simply ask for a larger passport book when renewing [sources: U.S. State Department, Fees; U.S. State Department, Renew].
The bureaus will correct errors at no charge, but, depending on circumstances, name change costs vary from free to the cost of a new passport.
When you conduct business with the National Passport Processing Center via mail, they recommend that you use a security envelope, preferably one large enough to hold your materials without folding your paperwork. And of course, because these documents are personal, sensitive and often difficult to replace, it's also a good idea to use a trackable delivery method, such as USPS Priority Mail with either delivery confirmation or signature confirmation, or, in the case of overnight delivery, USPS Express Mail [source: U.S. State Department].
A few key safeguards can reduce the chances that you'll lose your passport — and lessen the blow if you do. First, keep the document in a secure place, like a hidden money pouch. Second, as insurance, make two photocopies of your photo ID page. Leave one at home with family or friends and keep the other buried in your checked luggage. Finally, report lost or stolen passports ASAP by submitting a form DS-64 online or by calling 1-877-487-2778 (TTY 1-888-874-7793) toll free. You will then need to contact your U.S. embassy or consulate, so keep their contact info handy — on your phone and/or on cards in your wallet, luggage or money pouch.
If you still have questions (and you probably should), visit the NPIC website, call them at 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) or email NPIC@state.gov. Customer service staff answer questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET (except for federal holidays) and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET. Automated assistance is open 24/7. Americans currently abroad should reach out to their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
More Great Links
- Benedictus, Leo. "A Brief History of the Passport." The Guardian. Nov. 17, 2006. (Nov. 11, 2015) http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2006/nov/17/travelnews
- Broache, Anne. "RFID passports arrive for Americans." CNET. Aug. 15, 2006. (Nov. 11, 2015) http://www.cnet.com/news/rfid-passports-arrive-for-americans/
- Campbell-Dollaghan, Kelsey. "Your Passport's Complex Security Tech, Explained by Forgery Pros." Gizmodo. Feb. 5, 2015. (Nov. 11, 2015) http://gizmodo.com/your-passports-complex-security-tech-explained-by-forg-1683950188
- Canadian government. "History of Passports." April 10, 2014. (Nov. 11, 2015) http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/games/teachers-corner/history-passports.asp
- Conlin, Jennifer. "U.S. Plans Alternative to Passport for Region." The New York Times. July 15, 2007. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/travel/15transpass.html
- Fadiman, Clifton (ed.). "Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes." Little, Brown and Company. 1985.
- Higgins, Michelle. "The Clock is Ticking for Winter Travelers." The New York Times. Jan. 14, 2007. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/travel/14pracpassport.html
- Palank, Jacqueline. "Working Nights and Weekends to Process Passports." The New York Times. July 4, 2007. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/washington/04passport.html
- Robertson, Craig. "The Passport in America: The History of a Document." Oxford University Press. June 4, 2010.
- Staba, David. "New Passport Rules Bring Worry Over Tourism at Niagara Falls." The New York Times. June 11, 2007. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/06/11/nyregion/11border.html
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "Enhanced Drivers Licenses: What Are They?" (Nov. 13, 2015) http://www.dhs.gov/enhanced-drivers-licenses-what-are-they
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "Trusted Traveler Programs." (Nov. 13, 2015) http://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative." (Nov. 13, 2015) http://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/western-hemisphere-travel-initiative
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative: The Basics." (Nov. 13, 2015) http://www.dhs.gov/western-hemisphere-travel-initiative-basics
- U.S. Passport Service Guide. "Where Can U.S. Citizens Travel Without a Passport?" (Nov. 10, 2015) http://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/where-can-you-travel-without-a-passport.html
- U.S. State Department. "Applying for a U.S. Passport from Outside the United States." (Nov. 13, 2015) http://www.travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/applying-for-a-u-s--passport-from-outside-the-united-states.html
- U.S. State Department. "Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program." (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/preventing/passport-issuance-alert-program.html
- U.S. State Department. "Fees." (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/fees.html
- U.S. State Department. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/FAQs.html
- U.S. State Department. "Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page." (Nov. 11, 2015) https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/
- U.S. State Department. "Passport Agencies." (Nov. 11, 2015) http://www.travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/where-to-apply/agencies.html
- U.S. State Department. "Passport Expeditor/Courier Companies." (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/services/expedited/passport-expeditor-courier-companies.html
- U.S. State Department. "Processing Times." (Nov. 30, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/processing-times.html
- U.S. State Department. "Renew a Passport." (Nov. 16, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/renew.html
- U.S. State Department. "Strategic Goal 6: American Citizens - Public Benefit, Selected Performance Trends, and Strategic Context." FY 2006 Performance and Accountability Report. November 2006. http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/perfrpt/2006/html/76585.htm
- U.S. State Department. "Where to Apply." (Nov. 11, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/where-to-apply.html
- Williams, Jennifer. "Honeymoon Planning: Passports 101." Affluent Magazine. (Nov. 13, 2015) http://www.affluentmagazine.com/articles/article/94