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Don’t Get Rejected: Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes When Applying for a US Passport

Since 2008, US passports have been required for all Americans who wish to travel internationally. Whether you’re driving to Montreal or flying to Australia, you will need a valid US passport in hand to cross the border. Unfortunately for many, the application process can be a stressful, confusing tangle of government regulation. Thanks to great online resources like those found on the “Department of State’s website”, filing a proper application has gotten a lot easier. So why are many thousands of US Citizens’ applications still denied or delayed every year? The answers might surprise you.

While it’s possible that some “red flag” from your past will pop up and stop your application from being approved, it’s very unlikely. The most common “passport application” problems are within your control to avoid altogether. Issuing millions of passports every year, the Department of State’s Passport Services Office is an efficient operation. They just don’t have the extra time or resources to fix the mistakes that applicants make, so you must be careful to avoid mistakes yourself. Here’s how:

1. Use the correct forms. It sounds simple enough to do, but there are several types of “passport applications” and other official forms that apply to different situations. Using the wrong forms means your application simply cannot be processed.

2. Check and re-check for typos, errors and missing fields. An application with several key errors will instantly cause your application to be flagged and even rejected. The passport processing agent can only process the information as it is presented, and cannot infer what you really mean, or what might belong in a missing field. Have someone you trust proofread your application for errors – they are more common than you might think.

3. Send appropriate proof of citizenship. The US Department of State requires that you must submit original documentation that proves you are a US citizen. The two primary documents are a government-issued birth certificate or a naturalization certificate. Many make the mistake of sending their hospital birth record or social security card, neither of which will work. If you can’t find your birth certificate, get a new one from your county clerk and recorder’s office, or at vitalchek website.

4. Don’t Send Photocopies of Original Documents. It can be scary to send in original documents, but the passport office doesn’t care that you don’t want to part with them. You aren’t the only one! Make copies of your own and send the originals using a traceable method. That goes for minor consent forms, marriage certificates and official name changes, too.

5. Don’t try to take your own passport photos. Pictures must be taken professionally and there must be a white background. They must be 2 inches by 2 inches and you cannot wear sunglasses, hats or any other type of headgear or garb that covers the face. There is a specific guideline about the size and placement of the head within the photo. You can’t even smile and show teeth. Now that you can get professional photos done at thousands of retail locations like pharmacies and pack & ship centers, pay the $10 and get it done right.

If every applicant followed these simple suggestions, the vast majority of delayed or denied applications would be eliminated. A little extra attention to detail goes a long way.