A daunting task for any family before thinking of an international trip is the thought of applying for a passport. Not only is this an added expense, but the steps to getting a passport can seem downright confusing. Here are some easy to follow directions to help you get a passport for yourself or how to get a passport for your minor child.
Before you begin the process, remember DO NOT sign your passport application until you are in front of the passport acceptance officer. If you are a first time applicant, you MUST apply in person for your passport.
What you will need
Two (2) Passport Photos – These can be taken at a USPS Office for around $15, but photo processing centers such as Walgreens or CVS offer passport photos for around $7. The photos must adhere to the US State Department’s passport photo policy. Keep in mind that this photo is worse than your driver’s license photo – you’ll have to use this one for 10 years, so make it good.
Form DS-11 – This form is available online or in hard copy format from your nearby passport acceptance office. Fill out the application before you apply, but DO NOT sign the application.
US Citizenship Evidence – Passport applicants must show proof of being a US Citizen. This means you’ll have to submit a certified copy with your application. If you do not have a copy of your birth certificate handy, contact your state’s vital records and request a certified copy with a raised seal.
Current ID – When applying for your passport, you’ll have to present a current photo ID to the passport acceptance officer.
Copy of Current ID – Your passport application needs to be submitted with a photocopy of your current ID, showing the front and back of the ID. It must be on white paper sized 8 1/2 x 11 inches. NO OTHER SIZE. The copy must be on only one side of the paper.
Passport Fee – The full, current fee must be paid at the time of application. If applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility, you can pay by credit card, check, or money order. Checks and money orders must be made payable to “Department of State”.
This is a basic list of things you’ll need to apply for a passport. The official rules and information are available at the US Department of State’s website. There are special rules for different circumstances. If you are applying for a passport for a minor under the age of 16, here are some extra steps in addition to the regular process:
- The minor and BOTH parents or guardians must be present in person when applying for a passport.
- Parents or guardians must provide proof of guardianship, either in the form of a birth certificate or legal documents.
- Copies of identification of both parents or guardians, along with ID shown during application process.
For special rules regarding the application process for minors ages 16-17 years old read the special requirements.
Regarding passports and cruise travel, this information is from the State Department’s website:
“U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.”
We hope this information helps lead you in the right direction when applying for a US passport for the first time. The initial registration fee may seem steep, but keep in mind this international travel identification is valid for ten years.
Additional rules to keep in mind:
You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel internationally.
Before visiting other countries, check into Visa requirements.