Last year, passport applicants of any kind--first-time, renewals, rushed--could stop by the Washington Passport Agency at 1111 19th St. NW, fill out the requisite paperwork and be done with it. But no longer. Though other passport offices retain their open-door policy, the D.C. center now offers only "expedient" (rush) service, by appointment only.

Not in a rush? Then apply in person or by mail at a regional passport office (the agency has a list of offices in Maryland and Virginia) and receive your pass- port within five or six weeks. But depending on your situation, application requirements vary. The State Department's Web site at http://travel.state.gov/ passport_services. html offers info on the application process and its variants. The National Passport Information Center at 1-900-CALL-NPIC (1-900- 225-5674) also provides guidance, but there is a charge: 35 cents a minute for automated service or $1.05 a minute for a live operator.

Here's a rundown on the types of services available:

Expedient Service: First-Time Applicants and Renewals To be eligible for rush service, you must be traveling within 21 days, and must schedule an appointment through the Washington Passport Agency's 24-hour automated service (202-647- 0518). Expedient service also is avail- able on a walk-in basis at regional pass- port offices, but the Washington Pass- port Agency is the speediest. (Expedient renewals also can be done by mail-- follow directions for Renewals: Non- Expedited, below, and add the $35 rush fee and other required materials.) Expedient service is available for both first-time applicants and renewals who meet these criteria.

Expedient service costs $35--on top of the $60 fee for first-time applicants 16 and older, or $40 for renewals--and requires proof of your upcoming departure (i.e., itinerary, plane tickets, etc.). Other required materials for new applicants: proof of U.S. citizenship (birth or naturalization certificate, consular report of birth abroad, etc.), proof of identity (valid driver's license, work or student ID, etc.--but not Social Security cards) and two identical, 2-by-2-inch photos taken within the past six months. Expedient renewers need to bring their most recent passport, two passport photos, proof of departure and applicable fees.

If your paperwork is in order and there is no wait for your appointment, the application process at the Passport Agency can take less than 15 minutes. Applicants receive passports within a few hours to three workdays. If you need it within 72 hours, you pick it up; otherwise it is mailed to you (overnight mail is available at an additional cost).

First-Time Applicants: Non-Expedited Service

First-timers who are not seeking expedited service must apply at a passport acceptance office in person, as do those whose passport was lost, stolen or expired and was issued more than 12 years ago. Minors aged 13 to 17 and adults applying for a child 12 or younger must also appear in person.

A host of "passport acceptance offices"--which include post offices and circuit courts, among others--accept first-time applicants during daily drop-in hours. After you fill out the requisite form (DSP-11) and provide the necessary documents (described under Expedient Service, left), your passport will be mailed to you within five or six weeks.

Additional details, including a complete list of acceptable and necessary documents, are outlined on the back of the form, which can be found at any passport agency or affiliated office or can be downloaded from http://travel. state.gov/download_applications.html. In D.C., the post offices at 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and 4005 Wisconsin Ave. NW offer these services.

Renewals: Non-Expedited Non-expedited passport renewals can be done by mail--if your most recent passport is still in your possession and was issued on or after your 16th birthday and within the past 12 years. To renew, send form DSP-82 (you can download it or pick it up, as described above), your previous passport, two passport photos as described above, and $40 to: National Passport Center, P.O. Box 371971, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7971. And don't worry, they'll return your old dog-eared passport with your shiny new one.