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REAL ID Compliance

U.S. passports expire every ten years. In 2007, new requirements for U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico and Canada caused a big spike in passport applications and the Department of State had a large backlog of documents to process.

The documents that caused the 2007 crisis are set to expire in the next two years, and combined with an increase in U.S. citizens with passports (125 million), an even bigger crisis is predicted in 2017. So to get ahead of the rush, the Department of State is recommending that citizens applying for a new passport or citizens who have a passport that is set to expire in 6 months or less send in their applications as soon as possible.


The routine processing time for new passports or renewals is estimated at 4 to 6 weeks, but can be expedited to 3 weeks for an additional fee. The processing time may also vary based on demand. Peak season, which can slow down processing times, is from January to August. Off-peak season is from September to December. If your clients can wait until off-peak season to apply for or renew a passport, recommend that they do so.


The cost of a new passport for an adult is $135. The cost of a renewal of an adult passport is $110. A passport for a minor (anyone under the age of 16) costs $105. This page has helpful information on all the fees associated with passports.

Passport cards, which are different than a passport, are less expensive but can only be used for international trips by land and sea – they are not valid for international air travel. To learn more about passport cards, visit the Department of State’s passport card page.


The Department of State has many recommendations to help the application process go as smoothly as possible.

Passport photos that do not meet requirements are the most common thing that slows down a passport application or renewal. You can take the photo yourself, but using a professional passport photo service is highly recommended. In order to meet all the requirements, your passport photo must be:

  • In color

  • Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper

  • 2x2 inches (51x51 mm) in size

  • Sized properly so your head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head

  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance

  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background (Note: This guideline is not commonly followed!)

  • Taken in full-face view, directly facing the camera

  • Taken with a neutral facial expression (preferred) or a natural smile, with both eyes open

For more helpful guidelines as well as a photo composition template to help with your photo, visit the Department of State's photo requirements page.

Applications for minors frequently cause problems in the application process. It is very important to note that all minors age 15 and under who have or have not had a passport in the past must apply in-person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility. They must also use the form DS-11 when applying and have both parents or guardians present with them. There is a lot more to know about minors applying for passports. Additional information can be found on this page of the Department of State’s website.


Another common issue when applying for passports is submitting improper proof of citizenship. When applying, you must present an original document as evidence of U.S. citizenship, photo identification and a photocopy of that identification. All documents will be returned after your application is processed. Evidence of U.S. citizenship can be proven when submitting one of the following documents (photocopies are not acceptable):

  • Certified U.S. Birth Certificate (must meet all of the following requirements):

    • Issued by city, county or state of birth

    • Lists bearer’s full name, date of birth and place of birth

    • Lists parent(s) full names

    • Has date filed with registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth)

    • Has registrar’s signature

    • Has embossed, impressed or multi-colored seal of registrar

  • Previous U.S. passport (may be expired, but must be undamaged)

  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad

  • Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship

Proper photo identification must also be provided when you submit your application. You must present one of the following primary photo identification documents (and also submit a photocopy of that document):

  • Valid driver’s license (if it’s issued in a different state than where you apply, you must present a second ID)

  • Undamaged U.S. passport (if issued less than 15 years ago)

  • Certificate of Naturalization

  • Valid government ID (city, state or federal)

  • Valid military ID

The Department of State’s website has even more information on passport applications and renewals. But when working on applying for a new passport or renewing an existing one, the best advice is to plan ahead and be prepared with the correct documents. No one wants to have their vacation delayed because of passport issues.