How Do I Apply for a Passport or Visa?

In order to travel abroad, U.S. citizens must have a valid passport. A passport is your official United States identification for international travel. For travel in many countries you will also need a visa. A visa is a document, usually a stamp, allowing a person to enter a country for a limited period of time or for a specific purpose. Visas for foreign travel are issued by the destination country.

Obtaining a passport can be a time consuming process. You will need to gather all the necessary documentation, take passport photos (one 2 × 2 inch recent color photo is required), complete application forms, pay fees, and wait for your passport to be processed and delivered. On average, you should expect to wait up to six full weeks for your passport application to be processed and fulfilled.

If you are in Colorado and need a passport more quickly, you can complete an expedited passport application at the Colorado Passport Agency located in Aurora. Expedited passports require an additional fee and can be obtained in 5 days or less, depending upon the circumstances of your travel. For more information visit the Colorado Passport Agency information page.

Please note that there are different procedures for passport renewal. If you meet certain requirements you may be able to renew your passport by mail. For more information about renewing your passport, click here.

You should also note that passports are required for all members of your family who are traveling, including infants. There are special application requirements for minor children under the age of 16, and minor children aged 16 or 17. Information regarding all types of passport applications and renewals can be found on the U.S. State Department’s Travel.State.gov website. Links to specific information are listed below.

Visa application procedures are set by the destination country. Before planning any international travel, it is wise to check the U.S. State Department website for travel requirements and information. Travel information for every country in the world is available on the State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) Consular Information Program website. Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings are vital parts of this program.

Before planning any international travel, you are highly encouraged review the travel and safety information provided by the U.S. State Department. Among other things, the State Department’s Travel.State.gov website includes Country Specific Information (including visa information, travel alerts, and travel warnings), Tips for Traveling Abroad, Living Abroad Tips, Emergencies and Crises, and Safety Information for Students.

International travelers may also register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) on the State Department site. STEP, formerly known as “Travel Registration” or “Registration with Embassies”, provides automatic travel information updates. Additionally, registering your trip with STEP will help the State Department provide better assistance in the case of an emergency. Registration is free, and once registered, travelers can add and delete trips from their accounts based on current travel plans.

For more information about passports, visas, and international travel please see the links below.

  • AAA Colorado
    AAA Colorado includes information on how to obtain a passport as well as other useful travel information on their site.
  • Lost or Stolen Passports
    It is very important to report lost or stolen passports. Find out more information on how to do so at this site.
  • Passport FAQs
    Provided by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, this FAQs page provides answers to many commonly asked questions.
  • Passport Processing Times
    This website discusses the processing time for routine passports. It also allows visitors to check the status of a passport application online.
  • Passport Fees
    This website contains the schedule of fees for passports. Fees differ for age and type of passport requested. Sending improper fees for your passport will delay your application.
  • Passport Forms
    Find the forms you’ll need to apply for a passport using the Passport Application Wizard.
  • Passport Photos
    There are many places to obtain passport photos. Among others locations, passport photos can be taken at some post offices, local photography shops, and many chain retailers (e.g., FedEX Office, CVS, Walgreens). A simple Internet search will find locations near you.
  • Passport Renewal
    If you already have a valid passport, you can renew it. Renewing a passport requires a different process than obtaining a new one. Please read the instructions on this site to renew your passport.
  • Travel Alerts (U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs)
    Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, either transnational or within a particular country, that pose significant risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.
  • Travel Warnings (U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs)
    Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
    The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
  • Students Abroad
    Provided by the U.S. State Department, this site covers many important issues related to student travel abroad including travel documents, health and safety, emergency information, and travel news and alerts.
  • U.S. Postal Service
    You can apply for a passport at many post offices around the country. Some post offices also offer passport photo services. Visit this page for more information and to locate a post office near you that processes passport applications.
  • U.S. Passport Card
    The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air. Visit this site for more information.
  • Visa and Travel Information (By Country)
    For each country, you will find information like the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices, whether you need a visa, crime and security information, health and medical conditions, drug penalties, and localized hot spots.