If you happen to be a US traveler new to the world of international transit then a passport will be needed. If you are new to the game then follow along and start gathering up the forms and documents needed to get you out into the world as we show you how to get a US passport for the first time! For my Canadian friends (most of you have your own) who may be just getting started with a Canadian book, click here.
The Government Makes It Easy
Luckily you don’t need any fly-by-night agencies to get this done. The US government has this one pretty straight forward. If this is your first time, they want to see you in person. You don’t need to be near a consulate of embassy in the US as your local large or district sized post office will usually suffice. Check your local area. All the information you will need is right there at the good old USPS if they have a passport section. But if you are reading this, you can head over to travel.state.gov and get all the info you need.
- Fill out the forms.
- Gather all supporting documents.
- Get your photos.
- Pay your fees.
- Submit everything.
Start the Process
At the government website download the proper form for a first timer the DS-11. Print it on regular non shiny typical computer paper 8.5 x 11. All your instructions will come with the form.
Proof of Citizenship
You will need to obtain one of the following:
An official copy of your Birth Certificate. (Not a copy/must have a seal/notarized)
A Naturalization Certificate
A Certificate of Citizenship
The Naturalization and Citizenship certificates can act as ID but be prepared to bring your state driver’s license or official ID card or military ID. State ID’s can usually be gotten at your local motor vehicle office. A government ID of some sort from city, state or federal will usually suffice.
So a valid: Driver’s License/Military ID/Government ID.
No Hats, No Glasses, No Headphones!
You need to obtain two (2) 2 inches by 2 inches glossy passport photos. Most large post offices that process these applications can handle this, or find a local studio that does them on a regular basis that many have been to. According to the government website if you cannot remove your glasses or head coverings for medical or religious reasons, you must submit a signed doctor’s letter for medical or a signed letter from you if religious. There is a diagram on the government site for photo rules.
Fees & Time
Currently for a first time passport book that allows the most comprehensive travel as a citizen, there is a $110 fee plus another $25 execution fee. It is possible to pay an additional $60 for faster execution. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery but expedited can be 2-3. Of course, you my get it quicker as processing times can vary. Contact the facility that you will be obtaining your passport form. They will tell you the acceptable payment methods of that facility. Money orders are the most common, and as post offices are very common for passport application, a postal money order can be obtained on premises if cash isn’t allowed. There is a possible emergency passport available in extreme circumstances but usually this must be done at a consular or passport office with a little more status than the local post office. (Usually).
The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
You followed all the instructions and you filled everything out and brought it all together at the office and paid your fees. Now you wait. There is a passport status section on the government website but usually they arrive before the 6-8 weeks. Sometimes the waiting is listed as 4-6weeks. When it comes it is like a birthday with your shiny new worldly ID!
You may have heard of a passport card. In real words, don’t bother if you plan on traveling the world with it. It is only good for land and sea borders in North America (Mexico/Canada), the Caribbean and Bermuda. That means cruises and cars/buses. NO AIR TRAVEL outside of the US. It is a federal document so inside the US it can be used for any ID purposes.
Remember to make a copy of your passport and email yourself a photo of it. It makes it that much easier if lost to have a consular office help you out in the event of a loss. Also, for adults it is good for 10 years but you want to renew it asap on the last year. Many countries refuse entry if there is less than 3-6 months left on your passport.
So now you know! Grab a wallet for your passport like this one and go! Hey if you have a minute leave a comment below! Thanks!