One of the first steps you need to take before you can travel internationally is get your passport. People tell me all the time they want to travel with me, but they usually don’t even have a passport. I don’t take them seriously usually when they say that, but in all seriousness, you can’t go anywhere outside of the USA without a passport. Many people say they will get a passport only if they need one. This method is flawed, because you never know how long it will take to process your application. If you are following the fare deals we spoke about in previous posts, and you find one for a few weeks away, what happens if you cant get your passport in time?…You don’t go!
It’s also a good idea to have your passport for family emergencies. Imagine you have a family member that gets in a bind when traveling, you can’t go to their rescue if they need it. I know this is an extreme and unlikely scenario ,although its possible.
You can also get a passport card, I find them useless unless you live on the Mexican border
It’s easy to get a passport, but there a few things you must have before you go to apply. these details are pretty exact, as your passport application will be rejected if they aren’t.
What you Need
- Proof of Citizenship. You obviously have to prove that you are a US Citizen before you can get a US Passport. This includes a previous passport, a government issued birth certificate, or if you’re not a natural-born citizen, you can provide a certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship. You have to send this in with your application, and it is usually returned a few days before your passport arrives in a separate envelope. Here is a link to the requirements.
- Proof of Identity. you have to prove you are who you are to the acceptance agent by showing, and providing a copy of accepted ID. This is generally a government issued drivers license (Not sure how the states that don’t comply with the real ID act will play into this, but I think all drivers license are still valid for this purpose, just not sure about the future). A state issued ID is also a valid for on ID. You do NOT have to send the actual ID in, but you will have to bring a copy of the front and back of the ID and submit it with the application. Here is a full list of acceptable forms of ID.
- Passport Photo. You need a recent (within 6 months) passport photo to send in with your application. Most photo centers, like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, etc, can make passport photos for you, and it usually costs less than ten dollars. There are certain specifications required for the pictures. The companies I mentioned usually know the requirements and have templates to take an acceptable photo. A new rule is you have to take your glasses OFF for passport photos. This is a new rule so many photo technicians may not know this rule, so you may have to explain to them, as this is a recent change.
- Fill out Passport Application. You can download a PDF application form here and fill it out by hand, Fill it out online and print it out, here, or pick up an application at most post offices and acceptance facilities. You must be precise and accurate when filling out this application. Be truthful and complete. Its pretty straight forward, just answer all the questions and your all set.
After you gather all the necessary documents, pictures and application, you will need to submit it. You have to submit it to a Passport Acceptance Agent. You have to do this in person. Most of the time post offices and court clerks are acceptance agents. Here is a link to find the closest one to you.
Pay the fee
When you apply for a passport , you have to pay the passport fee. Right now for a normal first passport, it costs $135 dollars. $110 goes to the Department of State. You must take a check or money order for this amount with you. The rest, $25 dollars ,goes to the acceptance agent. You can usually pay this any way you want, but check with the acceptance agent for these details. Here is a fee estimator from the department of state , just in case your situation may be different.
Now you Wait..
After you submit your application, it’s basically just sit and wait. The current time it takes to process passports is 4 to 5 weeks, but in general its much faster. Most people get theirs in 2 to 3 weeks. Here is the link showing wait times.
You can check the status of your application here. It usually isn’t the most up to date, as I’ve checked my status and the day it says processed I got my passport in the mail so there is a delay in updating.
Like I said, your proof of citizenship you send in , usually arrives back first. This is because where the application is processed and where its printed are 2 different locations. So once you receive your proof of citizenship back you know the passport is being or has been printed and is or will be on the way.
Your Passport Arrives!
Once your passport arrives, you suddenly have opened up so many opportunities that you didn’t have before. Enjoy it!
If you need your passport sooner, there are a few options to speed up processing, and speed up shipping of the passport, each of these cost more, but if you’re in a rush it may help. You can also drive to the closest passport processing facility and in most cases get same day processing if you show proof of an emergency or travel in the next few days. Here is the info about expedited processing.
Getting a US Passport is a right, and a privilege that everyone should utilize! If you are ever planning on traveling internationally, even to Mexico, you need to go ahead and get your passport! Once you have one, you will find yourself wanting to fill it up with as many passport stamps as you can collect, as I do.
Thanks for reading, I hope this post was helpful! Thank you!