Obtaining a Passport

A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the person carrying it. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to issue United States passports.  Apply early for a U.S. passport. Processing an application usually takes 6-8 weeks, and even longer during peak travel season and changes in travel requirements.

To obtain a passport for the first time, you need to go in person to selected post offices or one of the passport agencies of the U.S. Department of State with an application, two photographs of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as a driver’s license. See detailed instructions here. 

Renewing Your Passport

If you have a U.S. passport that will expire in fewer than six months after the end of your program, you will need to apply for a new one. You may be able to apply by mail. Use the following checklist to see if you are eligible:

  • I can submit my most recent passport AND
  • I was at least 16 years old when my most recent passport was issued AND
  • I was issued my most recent passport in the last 15 years AND
  • I use the same name as on my most recent passport or I have had my name changed by marriage or court order since my passport was issued, and can submit the proper documentation to reflect this name change.

If you answered NO to any of the four statements above, you are not eligible to apply by mail. You may request a passport renewal application from your nearest passport acceptance facility.

Registering Your Passport While Abroad

Once abroad, you can register your passport with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts may not be released without your express authorization. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States. If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency, they can pass a message to you through the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. This office will contact the embassy or consulate in the country where you are traveling and pass a message from your family to you. Remember consular officers cannot cash checks, lend money or serve as your attorney. They can, if the need arises, assist you in obtaining emergency funds from your family, finding an attorney, finding medical assistance, and replacing a lost or stolen passport.

If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen 

If your passport is lost or stolen while you are abroad, report the loss immediately to local police authorities and the  U.S. embassy or consulate. To report your passport lost or stolen, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website

It is always wise to keep a photocopy of your passport in your luggage. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will expedite the renewal process.