I consider one of the greatest privileges of being a US Citizen is the ability to apply for a US Passport so that one can go and explore the 7 continents of this amazing world! Unless you’re traveling within the 50 states (yes, including Hawaii), the Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, you will need to have a passport to visit any other countries. US Citizens must obtain a passport for overseas travel. That is the minimum required travel document. Some countries will require a tourist visa as well, but that is something I always advise my client when they reserve a trip through me. Since that is specific to where everyone travels, I will not go in depth on tourist visa. Let’s get to the basics and talk about how to obtain a US Passport if you are residing inside the United States.
Navigating through the many pages of the US Department of Homeland Security website to understand how to apply for a passport can be overwhelming! So, I try to keep it simple here. At least you have a quick idea of what you need to get one.
For US Citizens by birth: you’ll need to have a certified copy of your birth certificate to apply. You will also need the application form, your photo ID copy, passport photos, plus application fees. First time passport applicant must apply in person at a passport service center. They can be located at your local US Post Office, or National Passport Agency.
For US Citizens by Naturalization, you’ll need your naturalization certificate instead.
A passport for adult is valid for 10years from the date of issue. However, because most countries require that your passport be valid for 6 months from the date of arrival, I would say, your passport is pretty much good for 9.5yrs. But still, the best document you’ll ever spend on! Whether you travel only once every 10years or very frequently, you will need to have a passport to travel outside of US territories.
For most US Citizens passport renewal, you will only need to fill out a renewal form, and send it into the passport office along with your photo, and the expired passport, and any renewal fees. No in person interview is required. Some exceptions apply. Check the resources listed below for details.
For children, new born to 17years, must apply in person, along with both parents, at local US Post Office, or the National Passport Center. Application procedures for children are similar to adults in terms of application form, ID, photos, and fees. But parents must present a consent form and proof of relationship to child. Fees are slightly reduced for children but they are only valid for 5 years. Passports are valid for 10years for adolescents ages 16-17, but also must apply in person, with at least one parent.
Always best to set up an appointment. Not many locations offer walk-in service. The normal processing time for a passport is 6 weeks, sometimes longer. Expedited service is available with an additional fee, but best to avoid and plan early if you can. Note that for some locations, appointments are booked 4-6 weeks out as well. So, allow about 4 months before your planned departure date to have sufficient time for a passport to be returned to you.
You can access application forms and fees and further details on the US Department of State website:
And of course, once you have your passport, I highly encourage you to take full advantage of it over its lifetime!
This article is intended to make it easy to understand the application process. Official information should be obtained from the above website or contact the National Passport Information Center. This process is current as of March 2016 and can be updated by US Government. Please check with the US official sources listed for most up to date information.