So, one of the most common questions I’ve gotten about traveling is how to begin- several people have asked me how to go about applying for a passport. I’m going to break it down for you:
WHERE DO I APPLY FOR MY PASSPORT?
The easiest thing to do is check with your local post office and see if they issue it. There are 2 post offices in my city, but only one issues passports. You will need to make an appointment to get your actual passport. You’ll need your original birth certificate, a government-issued photo ID, and “passport photos.” Passport photos are 2×2 inches with a white background. You can have these photos taken somewhere like CVS or Walgreens, or you could just check with your local post office because they can probably take the photos for you. They do not ask for a social security card, however you do need to put your social security number on the application. You are not required to put a SSN, however you could be charged up to $500 for not putting one. I believe the cost for a passport is around $180, however I am not entirely sure because I had to pay for the expedited passport.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY PASSPORT?
I’ve always heard that it’s suggested to apply for your passport 3 months before you know you are traveling. That seems a little bit extreme, as it usually takes no more than 6-8 weeks for you to get your passport. I guess the safer the better, though. I’ve talked to a lot of my friends who have passports, and they say it usually only takes about 4 weeks. Please keep in mind that you will need to provide passport information when you get your plane tickets.
BUT WHAT IF I NEED MY PASSPORT SOONER?
If you need your passport sooner than the routine service can provide, you should try the expedited service. It usually only takes about 2-3 weeks to get your passport if you use the expedited service, but you will have to pay more.
BUT WHAT IF I NEED MY PASSPORT THIS WEEK?
I needed my passport in a HURRY! I had already bought plane tickets and booked my trip without having my passport, (what can I say? I live on the edge) so I needed my passport fast. The lady at my local post office told me to go talk to our local congressman. Your local congressman can grant you something called a “congressional passport.” When I went to his office, his secretary asked me to fill out some forms. She gave me some additional documents to attach to my passport application, and a special address to send the passport to. This was really awesome, because if it hadn’t arrived after a few days I would have to deal with the crappy online tracking service by myself. Someone from my congressman’s office would be able to call the passport agency and see what was going on and how long it would take, so it was like I had a direct connection. Keep in mind, it is VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE AN AGENDA to get a congressional. It’s not required, but it will help you greatly. (If you just say “I may or may not take a trip” they will probably deny you.) In the forms you fill out they ask you what date you need your passport by. My advice to you- LIE. I know, I know, that seems like the wrong thing to do, but it’s better to fudge the truth and say you need it a few days before you really need it, just to ensure it comes on time.
HELP! I NEED MY PASSPORT TODAY!
If for some reason you need your passport IMMEDIATELY, you can get a same-day passport at any passport agency. But keep in mind, there are only 14 agencies in the United States. If you are able to sojourn to one of these locations, you MUST have an appointment. They will issue your passport on the spot.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER.
There are some things that they do not tell you before you get your passport.
- Make sure you pay with cash/check- One thing I wish I knew is the post office didn’t accept my credit or debit card. I had to send a money order for my congressional issued passport, and so I had to pay with either check or cash. Had I known this beforehand, I wouldn’t have to made a trip to the bank during my passport appointment…
- Name changes- Another important thing to remember is name changes can make things tricky. My ex-boyfriends mother got divorced, and so the name on her passport and the name on her plane ticket did not correspond. We ended up spending 45 minutes at passport control trying to get the mess fixed. When you get your plane tickets, make sure that it reflects the name on your passport.
- Countries relations- Research the country you want to go to, and make sure that it allows your passport to be stamped from every country. For example, this summer I will go to Kuwait. I checked to see how to get my visa, and it said my passport shouldn’t show that I’ve recently been or have plans to go to Israel. Better safe than sorry.
- Errors on your form- If you make an error on your form, don’t freak out. Just draw a single line through it like a strikethrough, and initial it. They need to be able to see your errors.
I hope that this post helped some of you out some.You can find more information about it at the U.S. Department of State’s website: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
This website should be able to answer all your questions and will probably be much more helpful than I was. Regardless, I hope that I gave you some new information and that you enjoyed reading. Good luck and safe travels!