How To Get A Passport

Getting a passport is easier than you think, here's what you need to do.

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• Travel: Flying • Travel: How-To
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Full Description
To travel outside the United States and to reenter the country, a passport is required. Many Americans don't realize that getting a passport is easy.

The U.S. State Department has put together a website detailing how to get a passport. The first thing to find out is whether you need a passport.

According to the State Department, if you are traveling by air, you must have a passport. If you are traveling by sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean; you need a passport with one exception. If you are taking a cruise which leaves from a U.S. port, stays in the Western Hemisphere, and returns to that exact same port; you do not need a passport. Just a state-issued ID will suffice. If you're arriving by land from Canada and Mexico, you need a passport.

You can download the forms and even fill out some of the forms online, but you cannot file for a passport card or book online. You have to file in person for those. But there is a passport helper on the State Department's website that helps you get an idea what it will cost and what documents you will need.

The documents you will need to apply for a passport include evidence of U.S. citizenship. That can be satisfied by one of the following documents; a state-issued birth certificate, a previous U.S. passport, consular report of birth abroad, or certificate of naturalization/citizenship. You will also need a valid, original government issued photo ID and a photocopy of that same photo ID.

You will need to also take a photo to be used in the passport. The picture must be in color, be 2x2 inches in size, and contain your full face. It must 1 inch to 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head. The face must be front facing and taken with a plain white or off-white background.

When taking a passport photo, you must wear “normal street attire.” You cannot wear a hat or any headgear that obscures your hair or hairline. If you normally wear glasses, you must wear them in the photo. Uniforms are not to be worn unless for religious reasons. If you wear something for religious or medical reasons, you need to have a statement to that fact.

You can get passport photos taken at a variety of different places. Among the places offering passport photo services are many FedEx and UPS stores, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, Costco, and AAA. Many passport application offices also offer passport photo services.

To find the nearest Passport Acceptance Facility, the State Department website has a search engine to help you find one. You can search by state, city, or zip code. The site can also tell you the nearest locations and you can search whether the location has handicap access or photo services.

Here's the current fee schedule for passport books and passport cards as of this writing:

$30 for a passport card (good for traveling from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Carribean)
$110 for a passport book
$140 for both

$25 execution fee that is paid when applying for either.

$60 for expedited service and $14.85 to have your passport delivered by overnight delivery.
But the passport fees are non-refundable if the passport application is rejected. It helps to have all of your paperwork in order.
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