Many of you have asked us questions about US passport fees, and expressed interest in our comprehensive Passport Fee page. Today we’re going to take an even closer look at the fees for US passports. Read on – by the end of this article, you will be a passport fee expert!
Why Do US Passports Cost $110?
The price of a US passport for adults over age 16 was set in July 2010. At that time, the price was raised to $110, an increase of $35 over the previous fee of $75. A close look at the US State Department’s Schedule of Fees for Consular Services reveals that the $110 charged for US passports is actually made up of two separate fees. The base fee for a passport book is $70, and there is a second fee of $40 for a “Passport Book Security Surcharge.” This surcharge is further broken down into a $22 charge to help cover the costs of meeting the increased demand for US passports, and an $18 “Enhanced Border Security Fee.”
In essence, the increased passport fees that you have had to pay since 2010 have gone toward helping the State Department pay for all the additional personnel they’ve had to hire to accommodate the surge of passport applications since 2006, and toward measures like the biometric chips and Automated Passport Control kiosks that have made international travel safer and more efficient.
What is a Passport Execution Fee?
If you are getting a first time passport, a replacement for a lost, stolen, or damaged passport, or a passport for a child age 15 or younger, you’re going to have to pay a Passport Execution Fee when you apply for your passport. The $25 Passport Execution Fee is a fee set by the US State Department, but it’s paid separately from your passport book (or card) fee.
The Passport Execution Fee is charged when you visit a Passport Acceptance Agent. Passport Acceptance Agents are typically found at large US Post Offices, Clerk of the Court offices, and other government facilities. The agents are not employees of the US State Department, but they are given the power to review your passport application and identity documents as the first step in your passport application service. Once your documents have been reviewed, the acceptance agent will seal them into an official envelope for processing. This procedure is called “executing” the passport, and the fee of $25 applies at every Passport Acceptance Agent across the country.
We have heard of applicants being charged slightly higher fees at Passport Acceptance Agents. Usually, this is just an extra dollar or two that is charged for photocopying services, or a fee of $10 or so if you have had passport photos taken on site. However, if any Passport Acceptance Agent tells you that the fee is more than $25, you should question why you have not been charged the official fee that was set by the US federal government!
Recently, a case came to light of a County Clerk who illegally waived the passport execution fees for hundreds of people. Cheryl Dinolfo, who was County Clerk of Monroe County, New York from 2009 to 2016, accepted passport applications from select applicants without charging the passport execution fee. This violates federal law, which requires all passport applicants to pay the same fee. The new County Clerk is now following up on past passport applications and attempting to collect the unpaid execution fees. While we don’t want you to be overcharged for a passport execution fee, you should also beware a bargain!
Who Needs to Pay a Passport Expedite Fee?
Depending on how quickly you need to get a new passport, you may need to pay more than the $110 passport book fee and the $25 execution fee. The State Department charges an extra $60 expedite fee for all rush passport services.
Standard passport service can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to be completed. Anything faster than that is considered to be expedited service by the government, and requires the $60 fee. The $60 expedite fee is required if you are…
- Applying for expedited service by mail. If you’re mailing in your own passport renewal, or leaving your passport application with a Passport Acceptance Agent, the $60 expedited service fee will get your passport issued in 2-3 weeks instead of the standard 6-8 weeks.
- Applying in person at a Regional Passport Agency. Regional passport agencies will only accept applications from travelers who have urgent upcoming travel, and offer only expedited services.
- Applying for passport service through a passport expediting company. Passport expediting companies submit your application for you at a Regional Passport Agency. All of the services offered by these registered passport expeditors are rush services that require the passport expedite fee.
The good news is that the passport expedite fee does not change according to how quickly your passport is issued. Whether it’s an expedited passport by mail that’s completed in 2-3 weeks, or an emergency same-day passport service handled by a passport expediting company, the US State Department charges the same expedite fee of $60.
Who Can Get a Free Passport?
Yes, you heard that right – there is such a thing as a free passport. There are certain scenarios in which US passport books are granted free of charge. Here are some of the reasons that you might be able to get a passport for free. (However, even if you qualify for a free passport, expedite fees and passport execution fees still apply if you need those services.)
- Correction of incorrect printing on your passport. Was your name spelled wrong on your passport? Was your birthdate listed as October instead of August? If you catch an error on your passport less than one year after it was issued, the US State Department will issue you a new passport free of charge.
- Name change. If you legally change your name within one year of having a passport issued, you can have a passport issued in your new name without paying the $110 passport book free again.
- Replacement of an emergency passport. If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re traveling, you can be issued an emergency passport by the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Frequently, though, those emergency passports are issued for a limited validity, and you’ll have to apply for a full validity passport after you return home to the States. You won’t be required to pay the passport book fee if you paid it to the Embassy, though.
- Official passports. US government employees, members of the armed forces, and civilian contractors working on government projects overseas are all eligible to receive an Official US Passport with a brown cover. These passports are issued free of charge, and are only to be used when traveling on US government business. Peace Corps and American Red Cross employees may also be issued fee-free passports for some international travel purposes.
- Family members of deceased members of the military. Spouses, parents, children, and siblings may be granted free passports to go visit the graves of members of the armed forces overseas.
- Civilian seamen on US flag vessels. Do you work on a US-flagged commercial ocean vessel? You may be eligible for a free passport so you can travel internationally with your ship.
Do you have any other questions about passport fees? Ask us in the comments for a quick answer from our experts!