Applying for your first passport can be daunting. Even when it comes time to renew your passport, it can be daunting. In reality, applying for a US passport is incredibly simple. Having a passport is essential. Not only can passport holders travel the world, but a passport is a surefire means of identification. It's also critical to make sure your passport isn't close to running out, as the renewal process can be long. That, and you don't want to be caught off-guard on your next vacation.
The first thing you'll need to go about applying for your passport is proof of citizenship. You can use several things as proof. The most common, if you're US-born, is your birth certificate. You'll also have to acquire a copy from your state of birth. In a similar fashion, if you were born abroad, you can use a consular report of birth abroad or naturalization certificate. However, if you're renewing your passport, you can also use the expired one for this part of the process. Most importantly, you'll also need your social security number.
Photographs are probably even more daunting than the process of applying for a passport in general. A lot of people dislike people taking their picture, and so to have to get one can feel like a tedious process. That said, it's important to remember that nobody looks good in their passport photo. Looking good isn't what these small pictures are there for. They're just a further addition to your ticket to travel the world. Passport pictures must, however, adhere to certain guidelines. Some of those guidelines include the size of the pictures (2x2 inches), a neutral facial expression, and a plain background. The passport office also considers accessories such as hats and glasses to be no-gos. Lastly, the picture also has to have been taken within the last six months.
These days, obtaining an application form is as easy as going online. In fact, you can fill out your application on the State Department's website. If you'd prefer to have a paper copy, you can also download the PDF forms to fill out and mail. It should be of note that the State Department will not accept double-sided forms. The application must cover the entire page and must only be on one side of the paper.
When it comes to application forms, you might wonder why there are several different ones. The reason for this is that each form is for a different type of applicant. For example, first-time applicants need to fill out the DS-11 form, as does anyone under 17. You'll also need to appear in person. On the other hand, those renewing their passport need to fill out the DS-82. This process is fast and should be easy. If you're changing your name, correcting an error, or replacing a limited validity passport, you'll want the third option. The DS-5504 form will make all of these much easier.
Fees are an unfortunate part of the passport application process. Acceptable forms of payment all depend on the location from which you're applying. Usually, this will be done via check or credit card. It's important to note that online applications won't take your credit card information, and so you'll have to pay in person. Fees for applications are different for everyone, with first-time applicants paying more than those renewing theirs. These fees should also be between $110-$140 including any additional fees.
Be careful when it comes to mailing your passport application. Mailing your application to the wrong address is easily done as the address differs from location-to-location. Be sure to check the mailing address when you're completing the envelope. A wrong address can stall or halt your application, which is unnecessary.
You can pay your passport fees and mail the application from your closest passport facility. If you're not sure where this is, a quick search online will tell you where you can do this. There are over 7,000 passport acceptance facilities, some of which include probate courts, post offices, and libraries. Another safe bet is also county municipal offices. As well as these, 13 regional passport agencies can serve customers who are traveling soon or require visas. For this, you'll need to make an appointment.
Applications generally take between 4-6 weeks to come through, though it can depend on the time of year and how many applicants there are. To receive your passport ASAP, if you need it, you can arrange an overnight delivery for both sending and returning. You can also possibly obtain your passport faster if you pay a premium fee. Alternatively, you can get it in 2-3 days with a personal appointment at a passport agency. If you do this, you'll need proof that you need the service quickly.
To summarize the last few tips, all you'll need for your passport application is to remember a few things. Those things include your proof of citizenship, applications, photos, and payment. Most importantly, you'll need patience. While 4-6 weeks can feel like a long time when you're waiting, it isn't as long as it feels.
One of the best tips we can give you is to email yourself a copy of your passport. Doing this with your passport and any other important travel documents can be a life-saver in the right scenario. For example, if you lose your passport overseas, having a copy on hand will make getting a temporary replacement much easier.