United States Passports

Visa requirements

Visa requirements for United States citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of the United States. As of 26 March, 2019, holders of a United States passport can visit 184 countries and territories without a visa or with a visa on arrival, ranking it sixth in terms of travel freedom (tied with Belgium, Canada, Ireland and Greece). Additionally, Arton Capital’s Passport Index ranked the United States passport third in the world in terms of travel freedom, with a visa-free score of 165 (tied with Danish, Dutch, French, Finnish, Italian, Luxembourgish, Norwegian, Singaporean, South Korean, Spanish and Swedish passports), as of January 17, 2019.

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United States Passports

United States passports are passports issued to citizens and nationals of the United States of America. They are issued exclusively by the U.S. Department of State.Besides passports (in booklet form), limited use passport cards are issued by the same government agency subject to the same requirements. It is unlawful for U.S. citizens and nationals to enter or exit the United States without a valid U.S. passport or Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-compliant passport-replacement document, though there are many exceptions, waivers are generally granted for U.S. citizens returning without a passport, and the exit requirement is not enforced.

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U.S. passport booklets conform with recommended standards (i.e., size, composition, layout, technology) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). There are five types of passport booklets; as well, the Department of State has issued only biometric passports as standard since August 2007, though non-biometric passports remained valid until their expiration dates. United States passports are property of the United States and must be returned to the U.S. government upon demand.

By law, a valid unexpired U.S. passport (or passport card) is conclusive (and not just prima facie) proof of U.S. citizenship, and has the same force and effect as proof of United States citizenship as certificates of naturalization or of citizenship, if issued to a U.S. citizen for the full period allowed by law.[14] U.S. law does not prohibit U.S. citizens from holding passports of other countries, though they are required to use their U.S. passport to enter and leave the U.S.

Non-citizen nationals

WE WILL ISSUE YOUR US PASSPORT REGARDLESS OF YOUR NATIONALITY.Every citizen is a national of the United States, but not every national is a citizen. The only current example of non-citizen US nationals are those born in American Samoa (including Swains Island). Unlike the other current US territories, people born in American Samoa are not automatically granted US citizenship by birth as the territory is not incorporated and an act of Congress granting it, similar to other US territories, have not yet been passed for American Samoa. The other historical groups of non-citizen US nationals include those of former US territories and during periods of time before the acts of Congress granting citizenship to those born in current territories.

Passport in lieu of certificate of non-citizenship nationality

Few requests for certificates of non-citizenship nationality are made to the Department of State, which are issuable by the department. Production of a limited number of certificates would be costly, which if produced certificates would have to meet stringent security standards. Due to this, the Department of State chooses not to issue certificates of non-citizen nationality; instead, passports are issued to non-citizen nationals. The issued passport certifies the status of a non-citizen national. The certification is in the form of “U.S. National” instead of “USA” on the front of the passport card, or an endorsement in the passport book: “The bearer is a United States national and not a United States citizen.

Dual citizenship

United States law permits dual nationality. Consequently, it is permissible to have and use a foreign passport. However, U.S. citizens are required to use a U.S. passport when leaving or entering the United States. This requirement extends to a U.S. citizen who is a dual national.

US Passport Application

An application is required for the issuance of a passport. If a fugitive being extradited to the United States refuses to sign a passport application, the consular officer can sign it “without recourse.

An application for a United States passport made abroad is forwarded by VALID DOCUMENTS to Passport Services for processing in the United States. The resulting passport is sent derectly to the applicant. An emergency passport is issuable within 5 to 7 working days . Regular issuance takes approximately 4–6 weeks.

Places where a U.S. passport may be applied for include post offices and libraries.


DS11 Standard
The applicant has never been issued a U.S. passport
The applicant is under age 16
The applicant was under age 16 when upon the issuance of the applicants previous passport
The applicant’s recent U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago
The applicant’s most recent U.S. passport was lost or stolen
The applicant’s name has changed since the applicant’s U.S. passport was issued and the applicant is unable to legally document the change of name

DS82 Renewal
The applicant’s most recent U.S. passport:

Is undamaged and can be submitted with your application
Was issued when the applicant was age 16 or older
Was issued within the last 15 years
Was issued in the applicant’s current name or the applicant can legally document a change of name

DS64 Lost
Lost or stolen passport requires DS64 in addition to DS11 only if the lost passport is valid due to the second passport rule:
Second passport

More than one valid United States passport of the same type may not be held, except if authorized by the Department of State.

It is routine for the Department of State to authorize a holder of a regular passport to hold, in addition, a diplomatic passport or an official passport or a no-fee passport. The United Nations laissez-passer is a similar document issued by that international organization.

One circumstance which may call for issuance of a second passport of a particular type is a prolonged visa-processing delay. Another is safety or security, such as travel between Israel and a country which refuses to grant entry to a person with a passport which indicates travel to Israel. The period of validity of a second passport issued under either circumstance is generally 4 years from the date of issue.

Those who need a second identification document in addition to the U.S. passport may hold a U.S. passport card. This passport card is used by U.S. citizens living abroad when they need to renew their regular passport book, renew their residency permit or apply for a visa – in other words, when they cannot show their regular passport yet are required by local law to carry valid identification.

Document requirements
in-state valid photo ID
birth certificate or naturalization certificate
2×2 photo

Passport photograph
Passport photo requirements are very specific.Official State Department photographic guidelines are available online.

2 in × 2 in (5.1 cm × 5.1 cm)
The height of the head (top of hair to bottom of chin) should measure 1 to 1 3/8 inches (25 to 35 mm)
Eye height is between 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 inches (29 to 35 mm) from the bottom of the photo
Front view, full face, open eyes, closed mouth, and neutral expression
Full head from top of hair to shoulders
Plain white or off-white background
No shadows on face or in background
No sunglasses (unless medically necessary). As of November 1, 2016, the wear of eyeglasses in U.S. passport photos is not allowed.
No hat or head covering (unless for religious purposes; religious head covering must not obscure hairline)
Normal contrast and lighting

Types of US passports
Regular Passport (dark blue cover)
US Passport

Issuable to all citizens and non-citizen nationals. Periods of validity: for those age 16 or over, generally ten years from the date of issue; for those 15 and younger, generally five years from the date of issue. A sub-type of regular passports is no-fee passports, issuable to citizens in specified categories for specified purposes, such as an American sailor for travel connected with his duties aboard a U.S.-flag vessel. Period of validity: generally 5 years from the date of issue. A no-fee passport has an endorsement which prohibits its use for a purpose other than a specified purpose.

Service (gray cover)
Issuable to “certain non-personal services contractors who travel abroad in support of and pursuant to a contract with the U.S. government, to demonstrate the passport holder is travelling to conduct work in support of the U.S. government while simultaneously indicating that the traveler has a more attenuated relationship with the U.S. government that does not justify a diplomatic or official passport. Period of validity: generally five years from the date of issue.

Official (Reddish brown cover)
US official Passport

Issuable to citizen-employees of the United States assigned overseas, either permanently or temporarily, and their eligible dependents, and to some members of Congress who travel abroad on official business. Also issued to U.S. military personnel when deployed overseas. Period of validity: generally five years from the date of issue.

Diplomatic black cover
US boimetric Diplomatic Passport

Issuable to American diplomats accredited overseas and their eligible dependents, to citizens who reside in the United States and travel abroad for diplomatic work, to the President of the United States, the President-Elect, the Vice President, and Vice President-elect, as well as former presidents and vice presidents. Supreme Court Justices, current cabinet members, former secretaries and deputy secretaries of state, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, some members of Congress, and retired career ambassadors are also eligible for a diplomatic passport. Period of validity: generally five years from the date of issue.
Refugee Travel Document also known as Refugee Passport blue-green cover
Not a full passport, but issued to aliens who have been classified as refugees or asylees.

Re-entry Permit (blue-green cover), cover titled as Travel Document
Not a full passport, but issued to a permanent resident alien in lieu of a passport. The reentry permit guarantees them permission to reenter the U.S. and is usually valid for a period of two years. A reentry permit can also be used by permanent residents who are stateless or cannot get a passport for international travel, or who wish to visit a country they cannot on their passport.

Issuable to citizens and non citizens overseas, in urgent circumstances, e.g. imminent death and funeral of a family member, lost or stolen passport while abroad, or similar situation. Period of validity: generally one year from the date of issue. An emergency passport may be exchanged for a full-term passport.
U.S. passport card
Not a full passport, but a small ID card issued by the U.S. government for crossing land and sea borders with Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The ID card is valid for 10 years for people 16 or older and 5 years for minors under 16. The passport card is not valid for international air travel. It is possible to hold the U.S. passport card in addition to a regular passport. These ID cards are WHTI and Real ID compliant, and have digitally-signed biometrics within an internal RFID chip, readable at a land or sea port of entry into or out of the United States.

Passport layout


On the front cover, a representation of the Great Seal of the United States is at the center. “PASSPORT” (in all capital letters) appears above the representation of the Great Seal, and “United States of America” appears below (in Garamond italic on non-biometric passports, and Minion italic on post-biometric passports).

An Official passport has “OFFICIAL” (in all capital letters) above “PASSPORT”. The capital letters of “OFFICIAL” are somewhat smaller than the capital letters of “PASSPORT”.

A Diplomatic passport has “DIPLOMATIC” (in all capital letters) above “PASSPORT”. The capital letters of “DIPLOMATIC” are somewhat smaller than the capital letters of “PASSPORT”.

A Travel Document, in both forms (Refugee Travel Document and Permit to Re-Enter), features the seal of the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Great Seal of the United States. Above the seal the words “TRAVEL DOCUMENT” appears in all capital letters. Below the seal is the legend “Issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” in upper and lower case.

In 2007, the passport was redesigned, after previous redesign in 1993. There are 13 quotes in the 28-page version of the passport and patriotic-themed images on the background of the pages.

A biometric passport has the e-passport symbol at the bottom. There are 32 pages in a biometric passport. Frequent travelers may request 52-page passports for no additional cost. Extra visa pages could previously be added to a passport, but, as of January 1, 2016, the service was discontinued entirely for security reasons.

Delta Security Stickers at the back of us passport

Data page and signature page
Each passport has a data page and a signature page.

A data page is a page containing information about the passport holder. It is the only page in a U.S. passport laminated in plastic to prevent tampering. A data page has a visual zone and a machine-readable zone. The visual zone has a digitized photograph of the passport holder, data about the passport, and data about the passport holder.

US passport page

Type [of document, which is “P” for “personal”]
Code [of the issuing country, which is “USA” for “United States of America”]
Passport No.
Given Name(s)
Date of Birth
Place of Birth (lists the state/territory followed by “U.S.A.” for those born in the United States; lists the current name of the country of birth for those born abroad)
Date of Issue
Date of Expiration

The machine-readable zone is present at the bottom of the page. It consists of two lines of information: the first line is [either P, D, or S]<USA[passport holder’s surname]<<[passport holder’s given name(s)][sufficient angled brackets (<) to fill out the rest of the line]’, and the second line is [PASSPORT NO. + 1 DIGIT]USA[DATE OF BIRTH + 1 DIGIT + SEX + DATE OF EXPIRATION + 10 DIGITS]<[6 DIGITS] in the second line. Both lines contain 44 characters in a fixed-width all-caps font, with the top line ending with enough left angle brackets to fill the 44 character limit.

A signature page has a line for the signature of a passport holder. A passport is not valid until it is signed by the passport holder in black or blue ink. If a holder is unable to sign his passport, it is to be signed by a person who has legal authority to sign on the holder’s behalf.

Place of birth
Place of birth was first added to U.S. passports in 1917. The standards for the names of places of birth that appear in passports are listed in volume 8 of the Foreign Affairs Manual, published by the Department of State.A request to list no place of birth in a passport is never accepted.

U.S. Birthplaces

For birthplaces within the United States and its territories, it contains the name of the state or territory followed by “U.S.A.”, except for the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. For persons born in Washington State or the District of Columbia, passports indicate “Washington, U.S.A.” or “Washington, D.C., U.S.A.”, respectively, as the place of birth.

Foreign birthplaces

For Americans whose place of birth is located outside the United States, only the country or dependent territory is mentioned. The name of the country is the current name of the country that is presently in control of the territory of the place of birth and thus changes upon a change of a country name. For example, Americans born before 1991 in the former Soviet Union (including the Baltic states, whose annexation by the Soviet Union was never recognized by the U.S.) would have the post-Soviet country name listed as the place of birth. Another example is that for Americans born in the former Panama Canal Zone, “Panama” is listed as the place of birth for people born on or after October 1, 1979; people born prior to October 1, 1979 can opt to designate city of place of birth. A citizen born outside the United States may be able to have his city or town of birth entered in his passport, if he or she objects to the standard country name. However, if a foreign country denies a visa or entry due to the place-of-birth designation, the Department of State will issue a replacement passport at normal fees, and will not facilitate entry into the foreign country.

China, Taiwan, Hong Kong/Macau SARs

Special provisions exist to deal with the complexities of American passport holders born in the Greater China Region. per the One-China policy, the United States recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, and acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is a part of China, while considering the status of Taiwan to be undetermined. However, Americans born in Taiwan can choose to have either “Taiwan”, “China”, or their city of birth listed as place of birth. Americans born in Hong Kong or Macau would have their place of birth as “Hong Kong SAR” or “Macau SAR,” but the option of listing the city of birth only (e.g. “Hong Kong” or “Macau” without “SAR”) is not available. As Tibet is recognized as part of China, the place of birth for Americans born in Tibet is written as “China”, with the option of listing only the city of birth.
Israel and Israeli-occupied territories

Special provisions are in place for Americans born in Israel and Israeli-occupied territories. For birth in places other than Jerusalem (using its 1948 municipal borders) and the Golan Heights, “Israel”, “West Bank”, or “Gaza Strip” is used. If born before 1948, “Palestine” may be used. For birth in the Golan Heights, “Syria” is used regardless of date of birth. Due to the legal uncertainty of the status of Jerusalem, for birth in Jerusalem within its 1948 municipal borders, “Jerusalem” is used regardless of date of birth. In 2002, Congress passed legislation that said that American citizens born in Jerusalem may list “Israel” as their country of birth, although Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have not allowed it. A federal appeals court declared the 2002 law invalid on July 23, 2013, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision on June 8, 2015.In all cases, the city or town of birth may be used in place of the standard designations.

Born in the air or at sea
For an American born aboard an aircraft or ship, if the birth occurs in an area where no country has sovereignty (i.e. in or over international waters), the place of birth is listed as “in the air” or “at sea” where appropriate.

Passport message

Passports of many countries contain a message, nominally from the official who is in charge of passport issuance (e.g., secretary of state, minister of foreign affairs), addressed to authorities of other countries. The message identifies the bearer as a citizen of the issuing country, requests that he or she be allowed to enter and pass through the other country, and requests further that, when necessary, he or she be given help consistent with international norms. In American passports, the message is in English, French, and Spanish. The message reads:

In English:
The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.

In French:

Le Secrétaire d’État des États-Unis d’Amérique prie par les présentes toutes autorités compétentes de laisser passer le citoyen ou ressortissant des États-Unis titulaire du présent passeport, sans délai ni difficulté et, en cas de besoin, de lui accorder toute aide et protection légitimes.

And in Spanish:
El Secretario de Estado de los Estados Unidos de América por el presente solicita a las autoridades competentes permitir el paso del ciudadano o nacional de los Estados Unidos aquí nombrado, sin demora ni dificultades, y en caso de necesidad, prestarle toda la ayuda y protección lícitas.

The term “citizen/national” and its equivalent terms (“citoyen ou ressortissant”; “ciudadano o nacional”) are used in the message as some people born in American Samoa, including Swains Island, are nationals but not citizens of the United States.

The masculine inflections of “Le Secrétaire d’État” and “El Secretario de Estado” are used in all passports, regardless of the sex of the Secretary of State at the time of issue.

At a League of Nations conference in 1920 about passports and through-train travel, a recommendation was that passports be written in French (historically, the language of diplomacy) and one other language.

English, the de facto national language of the United States, has always been used in U.S. passports. At some point subsequent to 1920, English and French were used in passports. Spanish was added during the second Clinton administration.

The field names on the data page, the passport message, the warning on the second page that the bearer is responsible for obtaining visas, and the designations of the amendments-and-endorsements pages, are printed in English, French, and Spanish.
Biometric passport

The legal driving force of biometric passports is the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, which states that smart-card identity cards may be used in lieu of visas. That law also provides that foreigners who travel to the U.S., and want to enter the U.S. visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program, must bear machine-readable passports that comply with international standards. If a foreign passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006, that passport must be a biometric passport.

The electronic chip in the back cover of a U.S. passport stores an image of the photograph of the passport holder, passport data, and personal data of the passport holder; and has capacity to store additional data. The capacity of the radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip is 64 kilobytes, which is large enough to store additional biometric identifiers in the future, such as fingerprints and iris scans. Data within the chip is signed with an RSA-2048 certificate issued to the U.S. Department of State by the ICAO Public Key Directory. Any and all data must be authentic and untampered, or else the signature will be invalidated.

Data in a passport chip is scannable by electronic readers, a capability which is intended to speed up immigration processing. This data, along with the signature, is verified to either be valid or invalid. Like toll-road chips, data in passport chips can be read when passport chips are adjacent to readers. The passport cover contains a radio-frequency shield in the form of a wire mesh within the cover, so the cover must be opened for the data to be read. This cover acts as a Faraday cage.

According to the Department of State, the Basic Access Control (BAC) security protocol prevents access to that data unless the printed information within the passport is also known or can be guessed.

According to privacy advocates, the BAC and the shielded cover are ineffective when a passport is open, and a passport may have to be opened for inspection in a public place such as a hotel, a bank, or an Internet cafe. An open passport is subject to unwelcome reading of chip data, such as by a government agent who is tracking a passport holder’s movements or by a criminal who is intending identity theft.

Visa requirements
Visa requirements for United States citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of the United States. As of 26 March, 2019, holders of a United States passport can visit 184 countries and territories without a visa or with a visa on arrival, ranking it sixth in terms of travel freedom (tied with Belgium, Canada, Ireland and Greece). Additionally, Arton Capital’s Passport Index ranked the United States passport third in the world in terms of travel freedom, with a visa-free score of 165 (tied with Danish, Dutch, French, Finnish, Italian, Luxembourgish, Norwegian, Singaporean, South Korean, Spanish and Swedish passports), as of January 17, 2019.