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Are you wondering how you can get a passport? In this article, we have provided information on how you can do that. We have also included other critical passport-related details.
Passports are travel documents that a government issues to its citizens. Even if you are not enthusiastic about international traveling, you should still get one.
How to apply for a passport
A promising job or educational opportunity that you are eligible for may come up in another country and then, you may need to go there. Furthermore, you may require to go to another state to see a relative/friend or for medical purposes.
Several steps are involved in the passport application process. Some take more time than others, and the requirements at each stage may differ. Below are guidelines on how you can apply for your passport to make international traveling easy.
Fill out your form
This is the first stage of applying for your passport. There are different passport forms for various categories of people. You can fill them out by either downloading the application PDF or getting an online form filler.
This form is ideal for those who are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time. Applicants must do it in person. If you are below 16 years of age, or you got your previous passport when you were under that age, you can also get the DS-11 form. Others who can get it are those who are not eligible for passport renewal or received their passports 15 years before the date of the new application.
This is the form for U.S. applicants (adults) who want to renew their passports and are eligible for it. It is also suitable for U.S. citizens who are living in Canada and can do the renewal via mail. If you are in other countries, you need to go to the Consulate, or U.S. Embassy to do it in person.
If you want to change your name within 12 months of getting your passport, you should get this passport application form. It is also meant for U.S. citizens who desire to correct an error that might have been made in their previous passport.
When filling the DS-5504 form, you should provide the following information and documents.
- Your social security number.
- The passport number and issue date of your current passport.
- Your legal name; as it appears on your current passport.
- Your current legal name; as you have listed it on your passport legal name change document. This should be accompanied by relevant documents that include court orders and marriage certificates.
- Your height, eye as well as hair color
- Your current residential address
- The name, address/ contact details of someone who can be contacted, on your behalf, in case of an emergency.
- At least one of your contact numbers
- A new passport photo; different from the one appearing on your current passport
- A photocopy of your driver’s license (front and back), or any other document issued by the state with your new name
Get your supporting documents
This is the second step of U.S. passport application. You will be required to prove that you are a U.S. citizen by providing either primary or secondary evidence. Primary evidence includes a U.S birth certificate. If you were born outside the state, get a valid and undamaged U.S passport even if it is expired. A certificate of Naturalization and Citizenship is also ideal in such a situation.
Secondary evidence that you can submit if you were born in the United States includes a Letter of No Record. It should be state-issued and have your name and date of birth. It should also indicate all the years when your birth record was searched and be accompanied by a statement that proves that your birth certificate was never found on file.
Other applicable documents include a delayed birth certificate that was filed more than a year after you were born and early documents; either private or public. Examples of the latter are your baptism certificate, hospital birth certificate (for baby footprints), early school records, post-natal care records from a doctor or a U.S. census record.
You cannot apply for a passport without a photo that meets the requirements. These include:
- Photos must be of color and taken in the previous six months.
- They must be clear; without any filters.
- They must have a plain background or an off-white one.
- The passport photo should never be a selfie.
- It must be of high resolution; not blurry or unclear.
- The photo’s size should be 2*2 inches, with the head 1 -1 3/8 inches; from the head’s top to the chin’s bottom.
- The photo paper quality should be matte or glossy.
- The passport photo must come with a full-face view, with the applicant smiling, naturally, with both of their eyes open and having a neutral facial expression.
What should the applicant not do when taking a photo for passport application?
- Applicants should not wear glasses, unless there’s a doctor’s note to explain why you cannot remove them.
- They should not wear hats/head coverings unless there’s a doctor’s statement indicating why you cannot remove them, uniforms, camouflage or normal day-day clothing.
- The applicant should also not wear any wireless hands-free devices or headphones.
It is okay if you have jewelry and facial piercing as long as they do not hide your face. Permanent tattoos are also allowed when taking passport photos in the U.S.
Calculate the Cost
You must pay some money when you are applying for a passport. You must count it so that you are financially prepared for the payment when the time is right. It varies, depending on your age, whether you are applying for the first time or you are renewing it and if you are correcting an error or changing your name. Additional services that you may need to pay for include delivery and expedited services.
Depending on where you are applying for your passport, you can either make the payments through checks, money orders, and cash. You can use your credit or debit card if you are applying for the passport at an agency.
Submit your application
After you have fulfilled all the requirements that have been explained above, you can go ahead and hand in your application for a passport in the United States.
If you are thinking twice about why you should apply for a passport, don’t! The document’s importance cannot be underestimated. Provided below are the reasons why passports are important.
Why a passport is essential
Proof of citizenship
A passport shows that one is a citizen of a particular country. The application process for passports for most countries, including the United States, requires the applicant to be a citizen. Therefore, if the authorities ever question your citizenship, all you have to do is produce your passport to eliminate any doubts or confusion.
Proof of identity
A passport is one of the most believable documents that you can use to prove your identification. The U.S. Department of State gives passports in the state and this makes them nearly impossible to forge. With it, you have evidence of who you are, and you can use it anywhere when necessary.
For international traveling
A passport comes in handy when you are traveling to other states regardless of if you are doing it for business, education or adventure. It provides proof of your nationality, and if anything happens to you when you are in a foreign state, the authorities know who they can contact. The document will also be used to determine whether or not you will be allowed to re-enter the United States or any other country where you come from.
To keep track of the countries you have visited
Knowing the states where you have been to is important. With a passport, you can easily do this since it comes with pages that are stamped every time you enter another country. The stamps have the country’s name. If you enjoy traveling, it can help you know the places that you have visited, and don’t have to again, as well as those that you are yet to go to.
Now that you know why passports are critical, there are other things that you need to be aware of about them. Here are several of them, and some are dependent on the state where you come from.
What you should know about passports
In some countries, your passport must have one or two blank pages for you to use it. For instance, a passport cannot be stamped in Germany, Mexico, Canada, and the UK if it doesn’t have a blank page. At least two blank pages are required for a passport entry stamp in countries like Iceland, Italy, Singapore, and Sweden.
Six-month validity period
In most states across the world, your passport should always have at least six months of remaining validity. Some of them include Vietnam, Turkey, and Thailand. This means that whenever you are traveling to other states, you must ensure that yours is valid for six more months after your trip has ended, as planned. This prevents you from getting stuck in case your plans change, and you have to stay in the foreign state a little longer.
New passports and visas
Moreover, you need to know that your visa expires with your passport; even if the former is still valid. It is impossible to transfer your old passport’s valid visa to the new one. The only countries that allow you to use your new passport and the old one with the valid visa are China Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and India. Even so, it is only possible if your identifying details remain the same.
Types of passports
Different states have different kinds of passports. They have a varying number of pages, validity as well as conditions. They are made to suit the needs of different travelers. The following are some of the passports available in the United States.
These types of passports are also known as service passports. The government issues them to its employees, their spouses, and all their dependents. They are used for international work-related traveling. Usually, they come with a validity period of five years; that is counted from the date of issue.
An ordinary passport is the most common type of passport. It is also referred to as a regular or tourist passport. It is issued to citizens for the primary purpose of international traveling. In the United States, ordinary passports are valid for ten years since the date when they are issued. This applies to holders who are either 16 years old or older. If the holder is 15 years or younger, then, their ordinary passport will only be valid for five years.
A diplomatic passport is for a diplomat who is residing overseas or a U.S. national who is traveling to other states for diplomatic work. If you are a dependent of a diplomat, you are also eligible to apply for this type of passport. Even with it, you still need to get a diplomatic visa for traveling. The passport doesn’t guarantee any diplomatic immunity.
If you want an alternative to your ordinary passport, this is it. However, it is not usable for international air travel. Even so, you can use the card whenever you want to cross land and sea borders in the United States to Mexico, Canada and several other countries in the Caribbean.
You can get a passport card if you do not intend to travel far and you want to spend less money since applying for it is less expensive when compared to doing the same for an ordinary passport.
Sometimes, a nuclear family in the United States can be issued with a family passport. With one, the designated holder, who is usually one of the parents, can travel with any member of the family. They can also do it alone, but they are the only ones who can leave the U.S. alone; other family members can’t.
Collective passports in the U.S. are for a group of people who are traveling together. They could be a school football team, a church choir or even a band touring various countries. They are issued on infrequent occasions.
If you lose a passport, or it is stolen, and you don’t have enough time to replace it, you can be issued with an emergency passport. It has a validity period of a year. Within that period, one is encouraged to replace theirs to avoid any inconveniences when traveling.
Refugee travel document
U.S. passports cannot be issued to non-citizens. Therefore, when an individual flees their home country to seek asylum in the state, they get a refugee travel document. With it, international travel is possible even if the holder doesn’t have a passport.
Once you have applied for your passport and received it, you should always keep it safe. This prevents any inconveniences that may arise when you are traveling. It also makes sure that you won’t have to go through the trouble of replacing it since it will cost you money and time. Here are ways that you can use to ensure that your passport is safe at all times.
Tips for keeping your passport secure
- Have several copies
You can make three or four copies of your passport before you leave your home for a foreign country. Have some of them in your different traveling bags, in various compartments. Make sure that you leave one at a safe place in your home. This way, even if you forget where you kept one copy, it is stolen, or you lose one of your suitcases, you know where to find another one that you can use for traveling purposes.
- Stay alert
Whenever you are traveling from one state to another, always pay attention to what is happening around you. This reduces the chances of losing your luggage; and your passport along with it. Even when you are in your hotel, in-flight, or the security line, do not forget to be alert. It helps in protecting your passport from theft.
- Hide your passport
It is also recommendable that you conceal your passport even while you are carrying it. You can do this by purchasing a passport holder that you can use to keep it in the pockets of your clothes whenever you are not carrying a bag. Also, never keep it in your back pocket because it can easily be stolen. To ensure that it is safe, don’t store the passport and your cash in the same holder. You may lose it while you keep opening the holder to get cash to pay your bills.
- Lock it up
Moreover, you can lock your passport in your safe when you leave your hotel room; regardless of how secure you think the room is. If your room doesn’t have a safe, go to the hotel’s front desk and ask if they have a safe place where you can store your important documents. You can also secure your luggage bag with a lock to minimize the chances of theft.
- Carry your passport
If you want to keep your passport safe, refrain from giving to other people for them to carry it for you. Instead, always do it yourself. Someone else will not care about your documents as much as you do. If they get pick-pocketed, you will blame them for the rest of your trip. Therefore, when traveling, everyone should be responsible for their visas and passports.
- Check in regularly
After every few hours, check if your passport is where you kept it. This helps to confirm that it is still there. If it is not, the sooner you realize it, the easier it will be to track it. As you do it, do it in a private place because you do not want other people seeing where you keep your private documents.
- Leave it in your hotel room
You do not always have to carry your passport every time you are going out. Even if it is a form of identification, you can survive for some hours without it. For instance, if you are leaving your hotel room for the beach, it is safer if you leave it behind. This is because the place might have so many distractions that you may drop it accidentally, or it will be stolen.
- Protect it from the weather
Apart from someone stealing your passport or you misplacing it, your passport can also be unsafe due to exposure to harsh weather conditions. For instance, humidity can damage its pages. Therefore, you should always keep it in a cool and dry place. You can even get a waterproof cover for it.
If your passport is destroyed by water when you are in another state, you should visit the nearest embassy to get a replacement.
What to do when you lose your passport
Despite taking as many precautions as possible, you may still lose your passport. It can be troubling if you are traveling or are already in a foreign country. You should not panic, though! There are a few actions that you can take immediately you realize that you have lost it.
Report the loss
This is the first thing you ought to do when you lose your passport. Reporting that you have lost your travel document protects you from identity theft. Once the authorities know that it is missing, it becomes invalid.
You can either report the loss online, via mail or by making a phone call. If you are traveling, contact the nearest police department to file a report; and ensure that you have a copy of the same. If you find your passport, after you have reported it missing, you cannot use it; hence, you still have to replace it.
Get a replacement
When you lose your passport when traveling, you should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate so that you can be issued with a replacement. Their offices are usually open during the weekend. Therefore, if you lose yours on a Friday evening, for instance, you have to wait until Monday.
When you are going to the Embassy, make sure to carry a passport photo that was taken within the previous six months. It must fit all the requirements necessary for passport application in the United States. Other things that you will need include proof of identity, your travel itinerary and the police report that you were given when you reported that you had lost your passport.
At the Embassy, fill all the necessary forms. You might also have to answer some questions and wait for a few hours. The time it will take for you to get another passport will depend on the number of other applicants who are also waiting in line.
Prepare yourself, financially
You cannot replace your passport unless you pay for the replacement services. Therefore, as you go to the Embassy or Consulate, make sure that you carry the required fee. In the United States, you can request for a rush order, but you have to pay an extra 60$.
Sometimes, you may apply for a passport but have your request denied. This can happen even if you have submitted your documents and paid the required fee. This could be for various reasons.
Why your passport application might be denied
You might hand in your passport application with some of the documents that are required. However, if all the supporting papers are not there, your application will be unsuccessful. To be safe, make sure that you thoroughly go through the instructional guideline that comes with the application to know, and understand what is required of you. For documents like passport photos, make sure that they fit all the necessary specifications.
It is easy to forget to sign your passport application forms, especially if you are in a hurry or you are not keen. Review all the documents before you submit them to make sure that your signature is there. If you are applying the passport for your child, who doesn’t know how to sign their name on official documents, you can sign the form on their behalf. You should never leave it blank; because then, your passport application will be denied.
Parents owing child support
If you are a parent who doesn’t pay child support, your passport application cannot be successful. This is unless you provide evidence that you have made arrangements on how you will pay it. Various states have different laws regarding how child support affects your passport application. For clarification, you can visit the local authorities nearby.
Lack of both parents’ participation for minors
If the passport application is for a minor, both parents must participate in the process. If one of them is unable to, for different reasons, they must fill a consent form that will be attached to that of application. This is regardless of whether they are a part of the child’s life or not.
Felony or probation issues
If you have any probation or felony problems, your passport application can be denied. For example, U.S. citizens who are on probation are not allowed to leave the country. Therefore, they cannot successfully apply for a passport for international traveling. Also, if you have committed any felony, you cannot be allowed to leave the country; hence the passport application denial. Even so, you may get a passport with the issues mentioned above. In most such cases, the applicant has to hire an expert to complete the application process for them.
Your passport application in the United States will be denied if you are known to have provided forged documents. This includes when you alter the dates, names or any other information found on important documents like birth and baptism certificates.
In the United States, you cannot be issued with a passport of you have a delinquent tax debt. The Secretary of the Treasury informs the Department of State about your situation. To get the passport, you need to first solve your tax problems with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
More often than not, people think that passports and visas are the same. The truth is, the two documents are different in a variety of ways.
How is a passport different from a visa?
Passports are legal documents that governments issue to their citizens to certify their identity, prove their nationality and authorize them to travel to other states. Visas, on the other hand, are documents that show that a person has officially been permitted to go, enter and stay in another state for a particular period.
In most states, passports are issued by a specific government department whose responsibility is to do that specifically. However, visas are issued by the Embassy or State.
Furthermore, passports are used to identify people who are traveling to other states, and it allows them to re-enter their home countries when the trips are over. On the other side, a visa is used to allow a person to travel to another country and stay there.
Another difference between a passport and a visa is that the former is issued by the government of the state where you come from, while the latter is given by representative officials from the state that you are interested in visiting.
23 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are the most commonly asked questions regarding passports and their application.
1. How do I apply for a passport?
The passport application process may differ depending on the state. In the U.S., you can do it in five steps, as explained above. These are: filling your form, providing the necessary documents, getting your passport photo, calculating the cost and finally, submitting your application form.
2. Are there passport agencies near me?
Yes. Various states all over the world have passport agencies situated in different locations. To find the one closest to you, search for it online.
3. How much is a passport?
Passport application fees vary from one country to another. It also depends on if it is a first-time application, renewal or correction of errors. The cost might also change as time goes by. As of 2019, the new passport fee for adults was $145 in the United States. Passport renewal was $110 while a replacement was $145. For minors applying for passports in the U.S., the fee was $115 in 2019.
4. How long does it get a passport?
It will take between 4-6 weeks to be issued with a passport in the United States; from the day when the application form was submitted.
5. How much is a passport renewal fee?
110$ in the United States, as of 2019.
6. How long is a passport good for?
Different types of passports are good for varying periods. In the U.S., ordinary passports are valid for 5-10 years depending on the holder’s age; official passports are good for five years while emergency passports are valid for about a year.
7. What is the difference between a passport book and a passport card?
A passport book is valid for international air travel while a passport card is not. Also, passport books are large and filled with blank pages for stamps and visas, but passport cards are made of plastic, and they are smaller.
8. What are the passport photo requirements?
In the United States, passport photos must measure 2×2 inches. Other requirements have been illustrated above.
9. How does a minor apply for a passport?
Minors apply for passports by filling the DS-11 forms with the assistance of both parents. If one fails to give consent, the application might be unsuccessful.
10. Can babies travel without a passport?
It depends on the traveling. For domestic traveling, the parent has to provide some form of identification; like a birth certificate. For international traveling, the parent must produce a valid passport. If only one of the parent is with them, they must have a Letter of Consent from the other parent.
11. How can I check the status of my passport?
The easiest way to do it is via email. You may also send an email to NPIC@state.gov, for U.S. passports. Ensure that you tell them your last name, your passport application number, your social security number’s last four digits as well as your date of birth.
12. Can I track my passport after visa approval?
Yes. Enter the passport number in the required area and check its status. If it reads “original scan”, your passport is ready, it has already left the Consulate or Embassy, and it is being taken to the delivery location that you chose.
13. What happens when your child submits an application?
If the applicant is 17 years old, or younger, the parents are allowed to access the data that they have submitted and discuss it. If they are above 18 years, any information that they have submitted cannot be presented with a third party.
14. Can I check a friend’s / relatives application for them?
No. If they are above 18 years old, they are the only ones who can access their information.
15. What do I do with a deceased family member’s passport?
You should take it back to the nearest passport office for cancellation. Make sure you bring their death certificate to prove that they are dead.
16. What is a passport number?
A passport number is a code that remains in the government’s database once the document has been issued.
17. Which states have blue passports?
Caribbean countries and some U.S. territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa have blue passports. Furthermore, many countries in South America issue passports with blue covers for their citizens.
18. Can I get my passport without filing taxes?
No. The federal government might fail to issue your passport if you have not filed your tax returns. The law requires you to do it. When you don’t do it, you are committing a felony. Hence, you cannot be allowed to travel outside the United States.
19. Can I apply for my application online?
When using DS-11 forms, applicants cannot mail their applications. Instead, they have to do it in person. Furthermore, the Department of State doesn’t allow citizens to submit their passport application forms online.
20. Can I get a passport book and card at the same time?
Yes. You can apply for both using the DS-11 form. Remember to pay the fees for both.
21. How do I get an emergency passport?
You can get an emergency passport by applying for it. You have to provide proof of emergency, complete the DS-11 form, and provide the necessary documents, the passport photo. Do not forget to pay the required fee.
22. Can I get my passport renewed in a day?
Yes, it is possible.
23. How can I get my passport renewed in 24 hours?
Head to the nearest Passport Agency and prove that you have emergency travel plans. Afterward, fill out the necessary forms and pay the required fee.
Getting a passport is incredibly easy. Fill your form, provide the documents that are required and a 2×2 passport photo. After that, make sure that you pay the necessary fee and submit your application using the appropriate channels. Once you get the passport, you can easily prove your identity and nationality. You can also travel to other states comfortably. Remember that there are different types of passports available for citizens in the United States. These include regular and emergency passports. Their purposes may differ; depending on who you are and why you want to move out of your country.
Make sure that your travel document is safe by keeping it in a secure place in your suitcase. To avoid being stuck in case you lose it, make several copies and store them in different locations. Also, make sure that you apply for a replacement as soon as possible, after you have reported it. This prevents identity theft since the document might be used to commit crimes.