How to Get Your Passport

Let’s cut through all the conversation, newspaper articles and rule changes and get to the bottom line … Apply for your Passport!
It’s not difficult to do, it’s not expensive and it’s good for ten years! There is no other travel investment that costs so little and allows you so much freedom. Passports have been required to travel overseas for years and travelers have always quietly complied. So why is there so much controversy now?

In mid 2006 it was announced that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was coming. Sounds scary! The plan was that on January 1, 2007 United States citizens would be required to have a valid passport for air or sea travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The second part of the initiative was to take effect on December 31, 2007 and extend the requirements to land border crossings. It didn’t quite happen that way. There was a great outcry from some of the Caribbean Tourism offices that their tourist business would be adversely affected. The Mexican government wasn’t happy, the Bermuda government wasn’t thrilled and the Canadians weren’t so excited either. The January 1st deadline became January 23rd – the air or sea travel became only air- the land boarder crossing became 2008 then 2009 or maybe sooner….Rules begin to shift…deadlines are extended and a simple process starts to feel overwhelming.

Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s an easy thing to do.

The first thing you want to do is plan ahead. Do not wait until you have travel plans and then begin the passport process. The normal time to receive your passport used to be 4-6 weeks. In these days of uncertainty that has doubled! The State Department is telling you to allow at least 10-12 weeks for a passport delivery. Travel can be stressful enough; don’t add to your stress level. Get your passport now

If you have never had a passport you will need to apply in person. You will need a completed passport application, a copy of your birth certificate, certified by the city, county or state, and two recent photographs of yourself. The photographs must be 2 inches by 2 inches, taken in the last 6 months and be in color.

Visit www.travel.state.gov and download a passport application. There are more than 9,000 facilities in the United States that will accept the application. They include many Federal and State courts, some public libraries and many post offices. While you’re on the web site you can enter your zip code and get a list of the ones in your area. The list will include the facilities that can also take the photographs.

If you’re applying for a passport for a child under the age of 14 they will also need to appear in person and both parents must sign the application.
The price for your new passport will be $97.00 for 10 years. If you’re under 16 the price is $82.00

If you want to renew an old passport you must still have the expired passport, it must have been issued in the last 15 years and you must have been at least 16 years of age when it was issued. You also should have the same name or be able to legally document your name change.
Go back to that same website – www.travel.state.gov and download a renewal application. Once it’s been completed you can mail it, along with the 2 pictures and your old passport. The renewal price is $67.00 for ten years.

If you have waited a bit too long to begin the process you can request an expedited process. You add $60 per application and you should receive your passport in 2-3 weeks. If this is what you want to do have the Post Office mark the package “expedite” and arrange for overnight delivery both going and coming.

Once you have mailed your application you can track the progress of your request. Allow 7-10 days for your request to be logged onto the system and then revisit that website once again. There is an area to click on and check on your application. You will be asked for your name, date of birth and the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number.

Get your passport before you need it. Remember, having a passport simplifies many things. It is one of the easiest forms of acceptable ID, you get all those fun stamps to prove where you’ve traveled and you are available for great last minute travel deals!

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