If your dream vacation involves skipping town (and by town, I mean the country), chances are you’re going to need a passport. Getting a passport will require a bit of time, patience, and money, but the payoff is well worth it. Though you can travel to all US states and territories with just a driver’s license or other state-issued ID, you won’t be able to get to, say, Paris or Shanghai without one of those telltale blue books.
Generally speaking, you’ll need to go in person in order to apply for a passport, though if you’re over the age of 16 and your last passport was issued fewer than 15 years ago, you may be able to fill out an online form. Still, for the sake of ease, let’s assume that this will all have to be done in real life, and not over the internet.
- Fill out Form DS-11 at Travel.State.Gov
You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, and if you don’t have one, you’ll need to submit a signed and dated statement that includes the phrase, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct: I have never been issued a Social Security Number by the Social Security Administration.”
- Sign the form
You’ll need to be careful about this step. You cannot sign the DS-11 until the acceptance agent allows you to do so.
- Prove your US citizenship
In order to obtain a US passport, you’ll need to be a US citizen. In order to verify this, you’ll need to submit an original or certified copy (a document bearing the seal or stamp of the issuing body) of one of the below:
Fully valid, undamaged US passport (may be expired)
US birth certificate that meets the following requirements: issued by the city, county, or state of birth; lists your full name, date of birth, and place of birth; lists your parent(s)’ full names; has the signature of the city, county, or state registrar; has the date filed with registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth); has the registrar’s signature; has the seal of the issuing authority
Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
Certificate of Naturalization
Certificate of Citizenship
- Have a form of ID ready
In addition to your proof of citizenship, you’ll also need another form of state-issued ID. As outlined at Travel.State.Gov, this can include any of the following:
Valid or expired, undamaged US passport book or passport card
In-state, fully valid driver’s license or enhanced driver’s license with photo
Certificate of Naturalization
Certificate of Citizenship
Government employee ID (city, county, state, or federal)
US military or military dependent ID
Current (valid) foreign passport
Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular ID), commonly used by a parent of a US citizen child applicant
US Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), commonly used by a parent of a US citizen child applicant
Trusted Traveler IDs, including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards
Enhanced Tribal Cards and Native American tribal photo IDs
You can also present an in-state, fully valid learner’s permit with photo, In-state, fully valid non-driver ID with photo, or temporary driver’s license with photo. However, should you elect one of these three options, you may need another supplementary form of ID (so just use one of the other ones above).
- Have two passport photos ready (just in case)
This may seem like the easy part, but as it turns out, there are extensive guidelines for a proper passport photo. I would recommend going to the post office or your local CVS (or any other passport photo provider) rather than trying to take a selfie. Passport photos must be in color and be taken in the last six months and must bear a plain or off-white background. If you wear glasses, you’ll need to remove them for the photo, and the printed image should be 2 by 2 inches, with the head positioned between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
- Have your money ready
It does indeed cost money to get your passport, and there’s both an application and an acceptance fee. Passports will cost you $145 total if you’re over 16 years old, or $115 for children aged 15 and under.
- Submit and wait
Once your application is complete and you’ve submitted all necessary forms of ID, your photo, and your payment to your local passport office location (likely your local post office), you’ll just need to play the waiting game. Keep in mind that passports generally arrive somewhere between six and eight weeks after you’ve sent in your application, though for an extra fee, you can expedite the process. If you’re not in a rush, however, you can start checking the status of your passport online about a week after submission.
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