Everything You Need to Know About Applying For a Passport
I don’t know about you, but I always considered a passport a somewhat exotic thing. Something that only world travelers used, full of the official entrance stamps from all the places they’d visited. I did know it was pretty important, as any movie about a US citizen in a foreign country made clear. Lose your passport or have it confiscated and you were stuck and couldn’t go home!
But things have changed and anyone that wants to travel, or who wants a reliable and unquestioned means of proving their identity, needs a passport. Since getting a passport means meeting a list of very specific requirements, once you do have a passport you’ll find it’s accepted worldwide as a valid identification.
If you’ve never had a passport, it may seem like there’s lots to do even before applying. But you’ll need to gather all your information once, as renewals are easier and less hassle. You’ll have to apply for your first passport in person, so your identity can be verified. There are lots of places which can issue a passport, with the most convenient being the U.S. Post Office. Government and city agencies also qualify, so find a location that’s close to you.
You’ll need to fill out a DS-11 “Application for U.S. Passport”, which can be picked up in person or downloaded via the internet. One word of caution, however, if you plan on printing your application at home, be sure you have a new ink cartridge and your printout is clear with no blurring or illegible areas. Otherwise, your carefully completed form will be sent right back to you unprocessed. Also, by all means, don’t sign the form before turning it in. It has to be witnessed so your signature can be verified.
You’ll also need documentation that confirms your citizenship. Most people use their Birth Certificate, but be sure it’s a “certified” copy. I tried to use my old hospital issued birth certificate – the one with an ink print of my little baby feet – and discovered that only my Mom would accept it. Other types of documents will also work such as a Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship. If you can get 2 original copies, that’d be a good idea, as you must mail an original along with your application. It will be sent back with your passport, but keep an extra just to be safe.
Passports also need a very specific type of photograph. If you apply at a post office, you’ll be able to get your photo taken right there. There’s a fee, so be prepared to pay about $10.00 to $20.00 for the 2 that are required.
It cost at least $97.00 for a normal passport application, plus more if you need it in a hurry. Typically the wait is 2 to 3 weeks but that could stretch on longer if there’s a backlog. Expedited applications will run you another $60.00, plus even more for overnight delivery.
There are, as you can see, lots of hoops to jump through when applying for a passport, but once you’re done, you’ll be ready for all that world traveling!