US passport on a background of a world map

Who issues your U.S. passport?

Have you ever applied for a passport

PASSPORT (noun): Derived from the French words passer, meaning to enter or leave, and port, a port or harbor, the term passport was used to mean a license to pass through a city’s gate or through the ports of the realm.

If so, you may have picked up and dropped off your application at a post office. While the U.S. Postal Service provides a convenient location to drop off and often complete your application, they don’t process your request. All passport applications are received, reviewed, and granted (or denied) through the U.S. Department of State.

An old document with the heading, "The united States of America, Passport, Department of State. The document shows biographical information, a photograph and an orange seal.
Old U.S. Passport. (State Department image, National Museum of American Diplomacy)

A U.S. passport provides proof of American citizenship and allows Americans to visit other countries and re-enter the United States again. There are roughly 9,000 passport agencies throughout the United States where you can submit an application, including post offices, public libraries, and county and city government offices.

The design of passports and their personal information have changed through the years. Today, passports include a photo of the passport holder, date and place of birth, and a chip with all this information. The chip enables the passport to be read electronically and also makes the passport more difficult to forge. Passports for adults are valid for 10 years. Passports for children under 16 are valid for five years.

People wait in line outside the U.S. Passport Office in downtown Washington, D.C.
People wait in line outside the U.S. Passport Office in downtown Washington, D.C. (© AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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