A passport is an internationally recognized travel document attesting to the identity and nationality of the bearer. In essence, it is a request on the part of the issuing government that officials of foreign governments permit the bearer to travel or sojourn in their territories and to afford them all lawful aid and protection. You may apply for a U.S. Passport Book or a U.S. Passport Card.
A valid Passport Book is required of U.S. citizens departing by air from the United States for any destination outside of North, South, or Central America and for entering the United States from outside the United States. A valid Passport Card may only be used for land and sea travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. For more information, please visit travel.state.gov.
The Clerk of Courts Office is the local government agency that may accept applications for passports. That application is then passed on to one of the passport services designated by the Secretary of State. The application is then reviewed, and is then issued or denied, and returned to the applicant by mail. During peak travel periods, this process may take several weeks, so allow plenty of time before you intend to travel.