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Here's how to apply for or renew your passport

Applications wait times are at a high. Here is the information you need to know to get your passport.

WASHINGTON, USA — With this past spring break being one of the busiest travel seasons in years, and summer right around the corner, many Washingtonians are wondering how to apply for and renew their passports.

The U.S. State Department is receiving 500,000 passport renewal applications each week. That’s an increase of 30-40%. The current demands are higher than during other periods of high demand, such as those seen in 2007 and 2017, according to the U.S. State Department.

This heavy demand combined with staffing issues at the department is causing backlogs of up to four months. As of March 24, the average wait time for applicants was 10-13 weeks. Applications via mail take even longer. Expedited applications are taking longer than normal, too, with applicants waiting seven to nine weeks on average. In 2018, the U.S. State Department said the average wait time was four to six weeks for routine applicants.

Despite its efforts to decrease wait times by hiring more workers and approving overtime hours, the State Department expects the wait time to increase in the coming months. Anyone with travel in the next year, or with a passport expiring before mid-2024, is encouraged to apply for a passport or renewal. 

Renewing and applying for passports can be time-consuming and confusing. We have what you need to know about the process.

First-time applicants

Applicants applying for a first-time passport, or those under 16, must apply in person. First, applicants need to fill out form DS-11. Applicants applying in person must have evidence of U.S. citizenship; this can be an expired passport, a U.S. birth certificate, a consular report of birth abroad, a Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. Applicants need to bring their evidence, and a photocopy of that evidence, to their in-person appointment.

A current ID, and a photocopy of the ID, also need to be presented. This ID can take many forms, including a U.S. passport book or card, a valid driver’s license, Enhanced Tribal Cards, and Native American tribal photo IDs. Out-of-state IDs and digital IDs are not accepted. Applicants have to bring a photo for their passport (full photo requirements below).

The cost for a first-time applicant is $130 for a passport book, plus a separate $35 execution/acceptance fee. Expedited service is an additional $60. 

Passport renewals

For adults over 16 looking to renew their 10-year passport, they must fill out form DS-82. The current, or most recent, passport must be submitted with the application. If the applicant has gone through a name change since their last passport, they must submit a certified copy of the name change. Applicants have to provide a photo for their passport (full photo requirements below).

Applications can be filed in person, or through the mail (note: mail orders are currently taking longer on average than in-person applications). The cost for a renewal is $130. Expedited service is an additional $60. 

Photo requirements

Photos must be provided for both first-time and renewing applicants. The photo needs to be in color and taken in the last six months. The photo needs to be clear and easily identifiable, with no filters, glasses, expressions, hats, distracting backgrounds, or poses.

Applicants need to have a neutral expression in the photo and be fully facing the camera.

The photo has to be 2x2 inches, with the head being 1 to 1 3/8 inches. The photo can be on glossy or matte paper. It may not be retouched or in any way digitally altered. 

Passport photos can be taken at United States Post Offices, most County Clerk offices, CVS, and some police stations. Approved passport photo locations can be found here (make sure to select “photo on-site” under additional search criteria).

Where to apply/book an appointment

In-person application appointments can be made with the King County District Court at the Burien, Seattle, and Shoreline locations. Starting April 10, passport appointments can be made with the City of Seattle at multiple locations around the city. United States Post Offices also take appointments. Find more locations here. All locations require appointments.

For applications being submitted by mail, postal employees should not check your application or charge an execution/acceptance fee. Not every application can be submitted by mail. Check mail requirements here.

Checking application status

Application statuses can be checked online. Updates may not be available within the first two weeks of having submitted the application. To check the status of an application go here. The last name, date of birth, and last four digits of the applicant’s social security number will be needed to check the status.

Urgent travel

Information for passport applications for children under 16 can be found here.

If there is an urgent need to travel within the next 14 days and the application has not been submitted, call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. If an application has been submitted, and the travel is within 14 days call 1-877-487-2778. 


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