How To Get Your Passport

Passport
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If you are planning to travel abroad, you will definitely need a passport. This is the international ID that you have to show to international authorities every time you leave and enter a country.

It requires some paperwork on your part because it is an official document aimed at keeping track of the flow of visitors. To make it easier for you, consider the following quick guide on how to get your US passport.

This may seem obvious to some, but it’s worth mentioning that it is necessary to have the citizenship of the issuing country to get your passport. Therefore, if you don’t have US citizenship, you won’t comply with the pre-requisites.

When Do You Need To Get Your Passport In Person?

Most situations require you to go to a local acceptance facility (sometimes with an appointment) which could be a library, a county court or a post office. You’ll need to go in person if you want to obtain it for the first time, if you lost it, if the issuing date is over 15 years ago, if you’ve changed your name and don’t have the documents required to certify such change or if you’re issuing a passport for someone under 16 years of age.

You will need to produce the following documents:

  • ID with its photocopy
  • Birth or naturalization certificate with its photocopy
  • Color passport photo (2’’ by 2’’)
  • Form DS-11
  • Payment of fee

Keep in mind that for children, you will also be required to present a birth or adoption certificate, or a guardian decree to prove your relationship to the child. In addition, parents will need to appear in person with their IDs or, if one of them cannot attend, sign a consent form.

Important: Whether you are filling the DS-11 form out by hand or online, you must not sign it. Once you hand in the documents and the form, an official will let you know when you are supposed to sign it.

When Can You Do It By Mail?

If the above mentioned situations don’t apply to your case, then you will have the benefit of doing the paperwork from the comfort of your home. You must send the required documents by mail.

Mail the following documents to start your application process:

  • Old passport
  • Color passport photo (2’’ by 2’’)
  • Proof of name change (if it applies)
  • Form DS-82
  • Payment of fee

About The Form

The information you must include varies according to the format number, but particulars such as date of birth, mailing address, social security number and place of birth are always required. At the top margin of the form, you will have to tick the correct option: book, card or both.

How Long Will You Have You Wait?

It depends on the priority and fee price you are willing to pay. Generally, the process takes from 6 to 8 weeks. However, if you have an emergency, you can pay for the expedited service that only takes 8 business days. Take into account that for this service you must produce either proof of an upcoming trip or of a life or death emergency.

Passport Book Or Card?

As everything, it depends on your needs and expectations. Are you planning to travel by car or boat? If this is the case, and you will limit your trips to Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda or Mexico, a passport card will be enough.

If, however, your travel destinations aren’t restricted to these countries and you would like to travel by plane, a passport book is mandatory. Even though it is more expensive than the card, it allows you to travel freely to any international destination. Additionally, it’s also valid for land or sea traveling.

Remember: While US passports are valid for 10 years, children’s have a 5-year validity.

Price

The price varies according to the category you’re applying for. Plus, you should bear in mind that the passport card is more affordable than the book (almost three times cheaper).

Whether it’s the card or the book, applicants must pay both an application and an execution fee. The application fee for a passport book costs between $80-$140, while the same fee for the card format is between $15-$30. Once you’ve paid the application fee, you’ll be required to pay an execution fee that can cost up to $35, although in some cases, there are no additional expenses (adult card for first timers and all renewals).

Useful Tips

  • Try to renew this document 9 months before its expiration date because some foreign countries require this document to be valid for 6 months after the date of entry to the country.
  • When it’s time to get your 2’’ by 2’’ photo, go to a post office, drug store or printing shop; they sometimes offer this service.