Everything you Need to Know About U.S. Passports

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Before you pack your bags and set out on a new adventure there are a few things that you have to take care of. One of them is documents. There is no way that you are going through customs without a valid passaport. According to state regulations, all Unites States citizens (even newborns), require a valid passport in order to travel to other countries. Some children are also required to have a passport when traveling internationally by sea or land.

To ensure that your next vacation doesn’t take a turn to the worse you should learn more about the process of obtaining a passport in a short time, how it can be replaced during travels and what papers you require for it. In the following article we will cover everything you need to know about U.S. passports.

How to Obtain an U.S. Passport

First and foremost you need to prepare the appropriate documents. The most important ones are proof of Citizenship & proof of Identity. Let’s take a closer look at them:

  1. Proof of Identity: this can be your driver’s license, your naturalization certificate, an older US passport or even a valid military ID. Each of these documents should have an image & personal signature.
  2. Proof of Citizenship: if you were born inside the United States you will only need a birth certificate. If you are a foreigner you will require a Consular Report for your Birth Abroad, a Certificate of citizenship and a Naturalization document.
  3. It is possible to obtain a passport even without one of the above mentioned documents. The process will become a bit more tedious, as you will also need a social security card, library ID or an identifying witness.
  4. Prepare the DS-11 form: DS-11 is the typical form that you can complete in person or online. Keep in mind that you will have to print your form after you complete it. In it you will be asked personal information related to your current address, social security number, age, physical feature etc. All the information included in the form is mandatory.
  5. Have money for the fee: in order to have your passport released you will have to pay a fee. The fee for a basic, first-time adult passport is around 135 dollars. Renewals are cheaper, especially for minors. You might be happy to know that if you are traveling to Canada or Mexico by car it is enough to purchase a passport card.
  6. Prepare a passport photo: The photo for your passport must respect certain rules regarding size and clarity. We recommend you to take the photo in special booths that can be found near drug or grocery stores.

Once you have the required documents you can submit your papers in person at a local passport authority or other designated places: acceptance facilities (you can find locations here) or passport agency/centers.

How long do you have to wait to have your passport released?

Unfortunately, you will have to wait around 4 to 10 weeks (depending on demand) to receive a passport. In other words, you should apply for it well in advance to your future travels. There is also an expedite process for emergency situations.

If you pay a 60 dollar fee, plus shipping fees you will receive the passport in one or two days. You can also receive a passport faster if you are in a life or death situation. You should contact your local authority for more information.

How to Obtain Emergency Passports

If you need the passport quickly you can request an emergency one. This type of passport requires a few extra documents. For example, you need to prove that you’ve been traveling in the last two weeks. In addition to this you should also get in touch with a customer care representative in advance to ensure that you have all the required paperwork.

Renewing your Passport

US Passport requirementsFor the first passport you are required to show up in person. However, if you are trying to renew it you can do it over the internet if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your last passport was issued when you were older than 16.
  • Your last passport is undamaged and can be sent in with your application.
  • Your last passport is not older than 15 years
  • You haven’t changed your legal name, or you have legal documents – a copy of your marriage certificate or government papers – to attest the legality of the name change.

How to Replace a Passport Overseas

 

If you happen to lose your passport, damage it or have it stolen you will need to make a new one as soon as possible. If any of the above mentioned things happens you must contact the closest United States Embassy or Consulate. Travel.state.gov has listed all the United States consulates and embassies in the world. Once you are on the phone with a representative you should tell them that your passport got stolen.

The next thing you need to do is to provide the agent with details of your travel (how long until you are departing, since when you are here etc). This will make it easier for him to obtain a passport replacement in a timely manner.

Papers Required for Replacing a Passport Overseas:

  • Proof of Identity (driver’s license, damaged passport, identity card etc.)
  • Travel itinerary – including train and airline tickets
  • A DS-11 Statement application for passport – can be found here
  • A DS-64 Statement for your lost/stolen/damaged passport – can be found here
  • Police report – if possible
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship – photo of your lost passport, house documents, birth certificate etc.

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The Global Entry U.S. Customs & Border Protection Program

If you haven’t heard about the Global Entry Program until now we will tell you that it is an United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program which provides pre-approved and low risk travelers to enter the country with expedited clearance. The program was initially designed for frequent flyers, but it does not impose a minimum number of trips for those who wish to qualify for it.

You can apply for the program at special kiosks or in airports at machines that can read fingertips and passports. Individuals who are approved for the CBP program have to undergo rigorous background checks, tests and interviews, but it is all worth it, because the program will significantly speed up the traveling process.

How to Add Extra Visa Pages

It is possible to add a maximum of 3 visa page sets to passports which are in perfect condition. Each set has 24 visa pages. It takes approximately one work-day to have visa pages inserted in your passport.

Schedule for passport pick-ups:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday – 8.30 AM – 12.00 PM / 1.30 PM – 3.00 PM

You cannot pick up your passport on Thursdays.

Requirements for additional visa pages:

  • At least three or more years of validity on your passport
  • Unmarked biographical page
  • Must not have 3 sets of visa pages added already
  • Book spine must be intact

New U.S. Passports

News has also surfaced regarding the new format of passports for United States Citizens. It seems that, starting with 2016, US passports will be upgraded to catch up with the world’s protocol. Here are some of the new features that will be implemented in passports:

  • No more additional pages: United States is the only country to add extra pages to passports. However, starting with 2016, adding new pages for stamps and travel will cost more than renewing a passport.
  • Information page: New US passports will have a polycarbonate coated data chip embedded in them. This will make personal data regarding the traveler readable to a machine.
  • Numbered pages: The United States will start numbering its passport pages again. This will make it easier for users to keep track of their pages, especially since some countries will not accept travelers with four or less pages.

Six Months Until the Passport Expires

You should do proper research before embarking on a trip to a foreign country with a passport that only has 6 months of validity left. Each country has its own 3 or 6-month validity rule. For example, some might turn you away at immigration while others will send you back before departure at the airport. The countries which do this are Tunisia, Paraguay, Malaysia, Israel, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, UAE, Brazil, Ecuador, Romania, Belgium and Singapore.

Some other countries have a 3-month validity rule (countries like Denmark, Cambodia, Fiji, Switzerland, South Africa, Croatia, Estonia, New Zealand). The good news is that most countries only require a valid passport for travel. We advise you to renew your passport instead of risking unpleasant surprises.

This is all the information you need to know about U.S. Passports, their expiration date and required documents. For more information about passports we urge you to visit travel.gov, the official resource for all things related to U.S. travel and legislation.