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What kind of pen do you use for passport application?

Applying for a passport is an important process that requires paying close attention to the application instructions. One key detail is knowing what kind of pen to use when filling out the passport application form.

Black Ink

The most important rule is that you must complete the passport application form using only black ink. This is specified directly on the application form’s instructions. Blue or red ink is not acceptable. The passport office scanner needs to be able to clearly read black ink so all the information you provide is legible.

Using black ink also ensures your application photographs adhere to the proper specifications. The photos must be printed on photo quality paper and have a clear black and white image. A black ink pen guarantees your signature on the back of the photos will be bold and dark.

Ballpoint Pen

You should use a black ballpoint pen when completing your passport application. Do not use felt tip, fountain pen, gel ink, or any other type of writing utensil. Black ballpoint pens provide the clearest and most defined strokes.

Ballpoint pen tips roll smoothly across the paper to produce solid, consistent lines. The ink dries quickly so there is minimal smearing. This ensures all the personal information, signatures, and other details on your application will be crisp and legible.

Fine Point

Opt for a ballpoint pen with a fine point tip. Fine point pens have a smaller writing point than the standard broader tip. This allows you to neatly fill in the small text boxes and write in fine print when needed.

A fine tip gives you greater control so you can accurately write capital and lowercase letters, stay within the lines, and add precise personal details into the limited space on the application form.

Press Down Firmly

When completing your passport application, be sure to press down firmly with the pen. Any light strokes or incomplete writing could potentially make your application illegible.

Firm pressure ensures every letter, number, and mark is bold and visible. Take care not to tear the paper though. You just need to apply enough force so the ink is dark and opaque on the application.

Print Letters and Numbers

You must print all letters and numbers on the passport application. Cursive, calligraphy, or unusual handwriting styles are not acceptable.

Printing uses clear block letters that can easily be interpreted. This avoids any misreading of names, dates, or other vital information on your application.

Stay Within Boxes

Carefully write within the boxes provided on the passport application form. Do not let any marks or letters, like the top of capital T’s or dots on i’s and j’s, extend outside the boundaries.

Stray pen strokes outside the boxes can potentially interfere with the scanning equipment used to process applications. So keep all writing neatly contained within each designated space.

Do Not Erase

If you make a mistake, do not try to erase it on your passport application. Cross out the error with a single line and enter the correct information next to it.

Erasing can potentially damage the paper or smear ink, which could make your application illegible. A single strikethrough preserves the mistake so it can still be read while clearly indicating the correct details.

Sample Pens

Here are some examples of appropriate black ballpoint pens with fine tips that you can use to complete your passport application:

Pen Brand Pen Type
Pilot Precise V5 Stick Rolling Ball Pens
Pentel EnerGel X Roller Gel Pens
Zebra Sarasa Clip Gel Pens

Avoid Pens That Smudge

Certain types of writing instruments are not suitable for filling out official documents like a passport application. Avoid using the following pens that may smudge, smear, or bleed:

  • Felt tip pens
  • Fountain pens
  • Gel ink pens
  • Highlighters
  • Markers

These pens contain wet inks that take too long to dry. The ink could potentially rub off or blur on the passport paperwork. Permanent markers are also too bold and may overload the paper.

No Need for Expensive Pens

You do not need an expensive or high-end pen for your passport application. Basic and inexpensive ballpoint pens readily found at any office supply, drug, or department store are perfectly acceptable.

As long as the pen meets the requirements of being black ballpoint with a fine tip, it can be a cheap pen that costs $1 or less. The passport office does not require or expect luxury fountain pens or anything like that.

Bring Extras

Bring 2-3 ballpoint pens with you when submitting your passport application in person. That way if one pen runs out of ink or dries up, you have backups readily available.

Having extras prevents you from having to interrupt the application process to find another pen. It also saves you from potential issues if the passport acceptance agent cannot provide you with a pen at their office.

Practice First

When you receive the blank passport application form, practice filling it out first before completing the final version. This gives you an opportunity to ensure your pen flows smoothly and provides opaque black ink.

If the pen blobs, skips, fades, or runs out of ink, you will know not to use it for the actual application. Practicing identifies any potential pen issues ahead of time.

Check Ink Flow

Before arriving at your passport application appointment, check that ink is flowing through the ballpoint pen by making some test marks on a piece of paper. Complete some sample words and numbers as you would on the form.

This verifies the pen is working properly and outflows steady, even black ink. You don’t want get to your appointment only to find your pen does not write.

Buy New Pens

Do not use old pens that have been sitting in a drawer or bag for a long time. The ink may dry up or the internal ballpoint mechanism could get clogged or damaged.

For optimal performance, buy brand new ballpoint pens to complete your passport application. You want the smoothest ink flow possible for this important document.

Black Ink Only

Black ballpoint pens are your only option for completing a passport application form. But for other general writing purposes, consider these advantages of writing in black ink:

  • Looks professional and neat
  • Easier to read than light color inks
  • Provides high contrast on white paper
  • Inexpensive and readily available
  • Colors do not smear or blur like black

Black ink is versatile and suitable for many writing needs. But be sure to use it exclusively when filling out official documents like passport paperwork.


Completing your passport application requires using a specific type of pen to ensure legibility and meet the requirements. Use an inexpensive black ballpoint pen with a fine tip. Press down firmly when writing and print neatly within the boxes provided.

Avoid gel pens, fountain pens, or markers that could lead to smudging. Carefully follow all the instructions to ensure your passport application is filled out properly the first time. With the right pen, you can complete this important paperwork smoothly and efficiently.