A passport is just a blue little book with your picture in it, but it holds pages and pages of possibilities. It’s like the world is at your fingertips when you hold one. My wish is that everyone could have the experience of travel. If you are traveling internationally you must have a passport. Period. Many countries also require a visa. Getting a new passport is not cheap and takes time, so make sure you take this into consideration when booking a trip. Here’s your how-to guide on getting your book of endless possibilities.
1. First you will need to fill out a form for first time passports (DS-11) . (There are additional requirements for anyone under the age of 17. For passport renewals, fill out the DS-82.) It takes 6-8 weeks to get a new passport. You can pay extra to have the process expedited in 2-3 weeks. Apply for a passport book not a card.
Travel Pro Tip: If you are really in a hurry, you can use expedited services like PassportsandVisas.com. I was able to get a passport with my married name in 2 weeks.
Form for First Time Passports
2. Gather Identification Documents
- Birth Certificate (an original or certified copy; photocopies and notarized copies are NOT acceptable)
- Valid ID (in-state U.S. driver’s license, Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship, Government employee ID (city, county, state or federal) U.S. military ID or military dependent ID)
- Submit a photocopy of the front and back of each ID that you present when you apply. (Photocopy must be on white, 8 1/2 x 11″ standard paper and cannot be double-sided. Do not decrease the image size ).
- For more information: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/applyinperson.html
3. Two 2″x2″ Head Shot Photos
There are some serious requirements for a tiny little picture of your head. It is the government after all…. They do have a new awesome cropping tool to help you size your image correctly! Here is a link to all photo requirements and the photo cropping tool (quick tip: DO NOT wear sunglasses on your head. I made that mistake once):
4. Calculate Fees
- $110 Application Fee ($80 for children under 16)
- $25 Execution fee (paid separately)
- You will also have to pay a specific postage fee at the post office to have it mailed in
- $6o Expedited fee if you want it sooner
- $15.45 Fee if you want it over-nighted back to you
- $110 Renewal Fee
The rule of thumb is you must pay your fees with CHECK. Here is a complete list of what forms of money are excepted in what circumstances: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/fees.html
5. Submit Your Application
- For first-time passport applicants, you must submit your passport IN PERSON at an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency.
- Renewing a passport can be done my mail or at a Passport Agency.
Each country has different Visa requirements, and some you do not need a Visa if you are a US citizen. It is generally very easy to get the needed Visas for most countries. Follow the link below to look up ALL the countries you plan to visit and their Visa requirements.
Travel Pro Tip: It can take several weeks to get Visas for certain countries and you have to mail in your current passport to their US based Embassy. Leave enough time to get your passport and then send it in to get Visas. Some countries will issue your Visa upon arrival at the airport. It is your responsibility to know all Visa regulations and how to get one for the countries you plan to visit. Also note if you are within 3-6 months of your passport expiring many countries will not issue you a Visa, so renew first!