Why You May Need a Second Passport

Here’s what U.S. citizens need to know about how to obtain a second passport, including why they’re necessary and when they’re permitted.

Why You May Need a Second Passport

U.S. citizens can apply for a second passport by mail, at a passport agency, or through various online courier services.

Photo by Christopher Rose/Flickr

The U.S. Department of State’s general policy on passports is that “a U.S. national may not normally bear more than one valid or potentially valid U.S. passport book and/or card at a time.” However, most people don’t know that there are several circumstances in which obtaining a second U.S. passport is authorized. This rarely publicized tip can be a lifesaver for U.S. citizens who are frequent international travelers. Here’s what to know about why you might need a second passport—and how to get one.

Why would you need a second passport?

The most common on the list of valid reasons for a second U.S. passport is that you’re in the process of applying for a visa for an upcoming trip but have immediate plans to travel internationally. Obtaining a tourist visa often requires sending your primary passport to an embassy by mail.

If your visa application process coincides with other international travel arrangements, you won’t be able to leave the country while you wait. This is considered a valid reason to apply for a second passport. Similarly, if you need numerous visas on an ongoing basis because you travel internationally very frequently for work, you can request a second passport.

The State Department will also issue you a duplicate passport if the travel stamps you already have in your passport will deny you entry to other countries you plan to visit. The most common example of this is having Israel stamps in your passport when planning to visit some countries in the Middle East such as Iran. In order to get in, you’ll need another valid passport without Israel entry stamps.

How can I apply for a second U.S. passport?

It’s important to note that the Department of State does not hand out duplicate passports freely. All applicants must:

  • Complete the Passport Application Form DS-82 by mail or online. To complete this form—the same one used for the passport renewal process—you must already have a valid and undamaged 10-year passport.
  • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship plus a passport photo taken within the last six months. The photo must be a clear image of your face (no face masks or coverings) in color against a plain white or off-white background, it can’t be a selfie, and eyeglasses must be removed, according to State Department guidelines.
  • Submit a signed statement to the U.S. Department of State. This letter must describe and justify the reason that the applicant needs a duplicate passport (proof of travel plans, such as a flight itinerary, should be cited). The applicant must sign the letter and attest that any loss or theft of either the primary or secondary passport will be immediately reported to a passport office or the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate, or consular agency. (The State Department provides a draft version of this letter online.)
  • Make the necessary payment for passport fees, which entails a check for $110 made payable to the U.S. Department of State (or $170 if you need expedited service).

Completing these steps is not a guarantee that a second passport will be issued. Each passport request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and not all applications are approved.

How long does it take to get a second passport?

Passport applications for a second passport have the same processing times as normal passport applications, whether it’s a standard application or expedited one. You can make an in-person appointment at a U.S. passport agency and pay a fee for expedited delivery. But if you’re really in a rush, you can look into passport-expediting services like RushMyPassport and CIBTvisas, which can deliver a second passport in 24 hours if needed, and they can also ensure that your documents are submitted and processed properly. (Of course, these companies charge their own additional service fees and sometimes have limited availability based on State Department passport processing capabilities.)

What are the restrictions on a second passport?

There are some restrictions to second passports, including that they are only valid for up to four years and cannot be renewed. A second passport can be expanded to 52 pages (as opposed to the standard 24-page book), but this should be requested during the initial application and cannot be added after the book is issued. If you have Global Entry, be sure to enter your second passport number in your profile so that it can work at border kiosks. You should use the same passport when you enter and exit a country.

This article originally appeared online in January 2017; it was updated on August 1, 2022, to include current information.

Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.
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