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Less than one half of all Americans have a passport. People without passports not only can't go to far away places like Asia, Africa, Europe or South America, without a passport you can't even travel to Mexico or Canada. An important step in becoming a global citizen is actually getting out there and experiencing other cultures first hand. Don't limit your options! Passports don't expire for 10 years, think ahead and apply for or renew yours today! The steps to apply for a passport are not as daunting as they may seem. Whether you are looking to apply for a new passport or to renew your current passport, follow the steps in our handy guide!

Compiled by Julie Tran


  1. There are two passport options
      1. Passport Book: U.S. Passport Books are valid for travel by United States citizens anywhere in the world, although travel to certain countries and/or for certain purposes may require a visa.

    1. 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. Like the traditional passport book, it reflects the bearer's origin, identity and nationality and is subject to existing passport laws and regulations. All U.S. citizens may apply for a passport card.
      1. If you have a U.S. passport book and are eligible to use Form DS-82, you may apply for the card by mail. You can use Form DS-82 to renew your passport book at the same time that your apply for your passport card.
      2. If you have never had a U.S. passport book or are not eligible to use Form DS-82, you must apply in person using Form DS-11.
      3. All passport cards will be returned using First Class Mail. Passport cards cannot be shipped to you using overnight delivery.
  2. Make an appointment to apply for your chosen passport. This can be done at the passport agency of your choice or at the San Diego Passport Services office.

    Where to Apply in Person:
    City Administration Building
    202 C Street, 1st Floor
    San Diego, CA
    Hours: The Passport Services Office is open by appointment only
    Monday-Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Please Note: Forms for applying and renewing your passport are also available at your local post office!


    1. A completed UNSIGNED application filled out in black ink.
    2. Note: You must sign the application in front of the passport agent.

Download Application

  1. Evidence of U.S. citizenship. (All documents must be originals!)
    1. Original or certified copy of birth certificate, OR
    2. Previous U.S. passport*, OR
    3. Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, OR
    4. Naturalization Certificate, OR
    5. Certificate of Citizenship
    6. *Note: For Minors under Age 16, you must establish proof of citizenship AND proof of relationship. Previous U.S. passports are not acceptable as proof of relationship to the applying parent(s)/guardian(s). Check the Passport Agency website for further information on proof of relationship regarding minors.
  2. Identification
    Submit a photocopy showing the front and back of the original Identification document presented. Copy must be one-sided on plain white, 8-1/2" x 11"standard paper.
    1. Current, valid driver's license
    2. Government ID: city, state or federal
    3. Military ID: military and dependents
  3. Passport Photos
    1. Photo Service is available from the City Clerk for $10, OR
    2. Bring one (1) color passport photo, 2" x 2" in size, taken within the past six (6) months. Please check the Passport Agency website for further requirements regarding photos (link is external).
  4. Payments
    The City Clerk accepts personal checks or money orders ONLY.
    No cash, credit or debit cards are accepted!
    1. Two payments are required: one made payable to "Department of State," and one made payable to "City Treasurer."
    2. Both payments must be made either with a personal check, or with a money order.
    3. Bring the required amount, as a money order or check, in reference to the fee chart below.


    1. First determine if you can renew your passport by mail.
      You can renew by mail if:
      1. Your most recent passport is available to submit and it is not damaged;
      2. You received the passport within the past 15 years;
      3. You were over age 16 when it was issued;
      4. You still have the same name, or can legally document your name-change.
        If your passport has been altered or damaged, you cannot apply by mail. You must apply in person.
    2. Complete the passport renewal application.
    3. Go to the 
Online application
       to see which option is best for you.

  1. Bring the required amount of money, as a money order or check, in reference to the fee chart above.

Good to Know:

  • You can and should renew your passport before it expires.
  • If your passport expired less than five years ago, you can still renew it (as you are allowed to renew your passport within 15 years of having received it.
  • If traveling to many countries, your passport expiration date must extend six months longer than your intended stay. Please keep this in mind if your passport has less than a year left until its expiration date.
  • To speed the passport application process along you may pay extra for an expedited passport and overnight delivery. Costs are shown in the fee schedule above.
  • Passport Cards are delivered by First Class Mail and cannot be overnighted.
  • Even if you have a Passport Book, if you travel by land to Mexico frequently, it might be safer and more convenient to pay $30 to get a Passport Card as well.