Useful things to know about passport application

Useful things to know about passport application

If you are traveling anywhere international by air, you need a passport.  If you are boarding a cruise ship that travels to an international port or American territory, you need a passport.  If you are driving across the border to Mexico or Canada, a passport card will suffice.  Its not complicated, but first thing you should know is that it can take 6 weeks for your passport to be processed and returned to you, unless you pay extra to expedite.

If its your first time applying for a passport, here are the important points:

  1.  Get your photo taken before you go to a passport office – you can get this done at most drug stores like Walgreen’s, or a business friendly mailbox store like UPS.  The post office will take the photo for you, but only do that if you enjoy long waits and grumpy photographers.  No, you cannot do it yourself.
  2. Download and fill out your paperwork before you go to a passport office, all forms can be found at:
    1. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can get forms at your local library or post office.
    2. So how do you find your closest passport office?  Do a quick internet search for ‘passport application name of your county’.  I’ve found the shortest application wait time at the city and county locations, and the slowest lines at the post office.
    3. You will need to bring your driver’s license, your social security card and one of the following
Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state*
Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
 Naturalization Certificate
Certificate of Citizenship

*A certified birth certificate has a registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office, which must be within 1 year of your birth. Please note, some short (abstract) versions of birth certificates may not be acceptable for passport purposes.

  1. If you don’t have these documents, you can find out what to bring instead at: and search for secondary evidence of citizenship.
  2. It typically takes about 4 – 6 weeks after submitting your passport for it to be returned to you.  Your birth certificate will be returned to you at that time as well.

Last Minute renewals can be accommodated.  The government website states that as of June 01, 2013, expedited passports will arrive within 2 – 3 weeks (door to door).  So if you follow the above steps, or the renewal steps, you must also:

  1.  Use two way overnight delivery
  2. Mark  you envelope expedite
  3. Pay an additional $60 surcharge
  4. And use a traceable delivery method

Still not fast enough for that last minute vacation or travel emergency?  There are several 24 hour and overnight options available too.  Here is one recommended by Forbes Magazine:

Passport Renewal must be done in a passport agency office if your original passport was issued before you turned age 16, if it was issued more than 15 years ago, or with a different name.  If none of those or true, and if you still have your expired passport, you can renew by mail.

For the in office option, complete the steps mentioned above, and also bring along your expired passport.

If you choose to mail your passport, here is what to do:

  1.  Mail it in a traceable method
  2. Mail it in an envelope that is protected, such as Tyvek, and 8 ½ by 11 so that it is long enough that you do not have to fold your documents.

Minors have to apply in person, preferably with both parents.  If both are not available, the missing parent must provide a copy of their driver’s license, as well as a notarized notice of consent, which can be found here:

This means ALL minors, including infants.  And here is one more useful tidbit — minors must have permission from both (living) parents to travel out of the country.  So if your child is traveling with one parent, grandparents, or other relatives or friends — a signed and NOTARIZED form stating they have the missing parents’ permission is needed.  When is it not needed?  When one parent has sole custody (bring the court documents) or when one parent is deceased (bring the death certificate) or when only one parent is on the birth certificate.

You may have other questions not covered here, feel free to contact us if you’d like, or check out the government’s faq at:

Have fun planning your cool trip!

~ Questions, comments or need help planning?  Contact Amy at

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