Essential Travel Tips: How to Get a U.S. Passport
Did you know that as of 2016, less than 42% of Americans own a valid passport? Some might find that to be a reasonable number -- others might find it disappointing. Me, personally: I wish it was higher.
Why? Because besides being often more cost effective than domestic trips, international travel is a great opportunity to learn more about the world, challenge stereotypes and biases, and take leaps beyond self-imposed limitations.
But some people still don't even know HOW to apply for a passport. And at this point, with travel trends (and travel shaming) rising through the roof, some are even embarrassed to ask for help... or don't know where to start.
How Do I Get a U.S. Passport?
Surely a simple Google search would help, right? Not necessarily. Some people are still so crippled by fear, the idea of a quick Internet search doesn't even cross their minds.
If you are that person -- I've got your back.
Here are easy instructions on how to apply for a passport for the first time... in just four steps.
If you are applying for a passport for the first time, most parts can be done at home but the final submission needs to be in person. Here's everything you need to know (necessary prerequisite: U.S. citizenship):
Get passport photos taken at your local photo shop or convenience store.
Locations like CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, etc. all promote quick and easy passport photo deals. Photos should be 2" by 2" and in color. Read these passport photo requirements before taking the pictures to make sure your photo doesn't get rejected.
Save $135 - $165 USD (depending on the type of documentation you want) to pay for passport fees.
NOTE: Don't book any international trips for the next few months (passport processing times may take a while).
Print and fill out the passport application, as applicable. For new passport applicants, you'll fill out the DS-11 form.
NOTE: You'll need original citizenship evidence and identification (plus copies) for this part.
According to the U.S. Department of State, evidence of citizenship includes the following (standard copies or notarized copies are not accepted -- only originals or certified copies):
1. Fully-valid, undamaged U.S. passport (but since you don't have one this doesn't apply to you)
2. U.S. 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 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
4. Certificate of Naturalization
5. Certificate of Citizenship
If you have an issue gathering any of these for proof of citizenship, a combination of these documents might help your passport application.
Submit your application at your local Postal Office or Court House that offers passport services (or a passport agency if it's urgent). Find submission locations here at the U.S. Department of State travel website.
Some people assume they can apply for a passport at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is only partially correct. Generally, DMVs do not accept passport applications and will not assist you with the process (they won't even answer one question).
The exception: if the DMV is operated by a county clerk.
Translation: you're better off going to the post office or court house (I processed mine at my local court house and it was quick and painless).
Be prepared to pay the fee upon submission. Since you are submitting in person: checks, cash, money orders, or credit cards are accepted. If you submit anything via postal service in the future -- like for a passport renewal -- only checks and money orders would be accepted. In short, cash and credit are only accepted for in-person transactions.
Now go get your passport!
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xx Olivia Christine xx