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Why You May Need a Second Passport

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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 

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

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.

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The U.S. Department of State’s general policy on passports is that “no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid passport of the same type at any one time.” However, most people don’t know that there are a couple of 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 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.

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 Iran. In order to get in, you’ll need another valid passport without Israel entry stamps. Similar issues arise between India and Pakistan.

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

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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 newly taken passport photo. If you will need your primary passport during the application process, you can submit a certified copy of your birth certificate or state-issued ID card. The standardU.S. passport photo size is 2 x 2 inches and all photos must be printed on photo-quality paper, according to State Department guidelines.

U.S. passports are issued to citizens and nationals of the United States of America.
✈ Submit a “Second Passport Request Letter” addressed to the U.S. Department of State. This letter must describe and justify the specific 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 request letter and include a statement noting that any loss or theft of either the primary or secondary passport will be immediately reported to Passport Services or the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate, or consular agency.

✈ Make the necessary payment for passport fees, which entails a check for $110 made payable to U.S. Department of State (or more if you need expedited service).

Even after completing these steps, there is still no 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.

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How long does it take to get a second passport?

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Passport applications sent in by mail can take up to six weeks for processing. Even if you pay the additional $60 in government fees for expedited passport service, the second passport will still take two to three weeks to be processed. You can make an in-person appointment at a U.S. passport agency and pay a fee for expedited delivery, but if you’re in a rush, using a passport-expediting company can be the best way to apply. Courier services like RushMyPassport and CIBTvisas 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.)

What are the restrictions on a second passport?

There are some restrictions to second passports, including that they are only valid for two 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 March 14, 2019, to include current information.

>>Next: Surprising Countries Where U.S. Citizens Need an Advance Visa

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