A passport is necessary for anyone who is planning on traveling outside of the United States and applying for this little blue book is easier than you think. The only difficult part of the entire process is that it can take a long time to receive a passport, although, there are ways to get it faster if necessary.
Here are 4 steps for obtaining a passport in the U.S.:
- The first step is easy as anyone can print out the application form at home or pick it up at a local post office.
- After reading all the directions, people can fill out the required information on the form and then find all the documents that they will need to prove their identity and American citizenship. These documents include birth certificates (original or certified copy), naturalization or citizenship certificates, presenting a driver’s license and submitting a copy of the license, military or government identification and even a prior passport if applicable.
- The next step is to have passport photos taken, and while this can be done in many places, the post office is usually the best choice. However, there will be an additional fee and not all post offices provide this service. Check the ones that provide this service here. The staff there knows all the requirements and rules for the photos, so people will know that they are being done the correct way. The next best option would be a Walgreens or Duane Reed. Be mindful of your photo and try to take the photo when you’re close to your daily look not when you’ve decided to temporarily color hair. This photo will stick with you for 10 years so you don’t want Customs agents scrutinizing your photo wondering if it’s really you. This has happened to me a couple of times before.
- The final step is to take all the above to a local passport acceptance facility, which is usually the post office, or a passport agency. You must apply in person if:-You are applying for your first U.S. passport
-You are under 16 years old
-Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16
-Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged
-Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago
Some allow you to make an appointment and some have certain hours for processing applications. I would advise checking this ahead of time here. It took me three tries because I didn’t go to one where you could make an appointment. I also tried to accomplish on a 1 hr lunch break and was unsuccessful due to the line. Most passports take between two weeks and two months to arrive, and currently, it is the longer timeframe due to high volumes of applications. The process can be expedited for an additional fee, but most times a person will need to go to a passport agency to have that taken care of. Be prepared to pay $135+.
A passport is not always the only item that people will need when traveling internationally. In some countries, it is necessary for travelers to apply for a tourist visa as well. Visas are issued through the embassy in each specific country.
Everyone can determine whether or not they need a visa by visiting the United States Department of State Website. This site also provides a wealth of additional information including safety and security information, a traveler’s checklist, and what a person should do if something happens when they are abroad. You can also register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP allows you to receive information from the U.S. Embassy in case of an emergency.
Traveling can be an adventure, but everyone needs to prepare ahead of time to ensure that their travels will be successful. After all, no one will want to be turned away when they arrive in a country simply because they don’t have all the necessary documents. How was your experience with obtaining your first passport? Comment below!