Maybe you don’t need to get a passport maybe you already possess a current and valid passport. Please feel free to skip this article. I am writing it because I have talked to too many people who have said to me, “I’d love to travel but I don’t even have a passport.”
Get A Passport
This is why I believe for anyone who has a desire to travel soon or in the future the first step is to get a passport even if you have no idea when or where you are going to travel. A U.S. passport if valid for ten years so why not take care of this minor speed bump as soon as you can?
Fortune Smiles On The Prepared
It was Louis Pasteur who said that “fortune smiles on the prepared mind,” and I believe that holds true for wannabe travelers as well. In order to make those dream vacations happen, we need to be constantly preparing, taking small steps day to day, in order to lay the groundwork for making them possible.
If you’ve never owned a passport there is something magical that happens when it arrives. You receive this very official looking little book full of blank pages just waiting to be stamped. With a crisp new passport in hand, it is hard not to get excited about travel.
Applying for a passport is pretty straightforward though it does take about six weeks from start to finish unless you want to pay extra to speed up the service. Which is another reason to get one sooner rather than later. Imagine if a travel opportunity came up and you had to pay through the nose just to get a passport!
There are plenty of services out there who will want to help you get a passport but your best bet is to head to the State Department’s website and follow their “passport wizard” to find the best way to get yours.
Click here for the State Department’s Passport Wizard.
If this is your first time obtaining a U.S. passport it will cost you $145. $110 for the passport and a $35 execution fee. (Click here for complete & current fee schedule)
Documents You’ll Need
In order to get a U.S. passport, you’ll need to prove you are a United States citizen. One of the following documents will work for that (must be the original):
- birth certificate
- old U.S. passport
- consular report of birth abroad
- certificate of naturalization/citizenship
Plus you will need photo identification to back up the documents, one of the following is required:
- valid driver’s license
- undamaged U.S. passport less than 15 years old
- certificate of naturalization
- valid government ID (state ID)
- valid military ID
If you do not have the required documents check with the State Department on what else can be used.
Passport Photo Requirements
You will most likely need to provide your own photo for your passport unless you apply for the passport at an agency that is equipped to take your photo.
Do not feel you need to pay for a “passport photo” as most places charge way too much for this. At Walmart, a 2×2 passport photo is $7.44 but a 4×6 print is $.09! Using an online photo editor like PicMonkey.com you can easily create a passport photo and have it printed on the $.09 print.
Here are the basics you need when it comes to a passport photo:
- the photo must be in color
- 2 by 2 inches in size
- printed on photo quality paper
- taken within the past 6 months and showing your current appearance
- must be of your full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
- between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
- wear normal street attire
- uniforms should not be worn
- religious attire is okay if it is worn daily
- do not wear a hat or anything that obscures your hair and hairline
- if you wear glasses they should be in the photo
- dark glasses are not acceptable
Click here for examples of what is an acceptable passport photo.
U.S. Passport Application
Lastly, you’ll need to fill out a DS-11 which is the application for the passport. You can either do this by hand or electronically.
Click here to download the PDF of the DS-11.
Click here to fill it out electronically.
Passport Application Acceptance Facility
You do not mail your passport application in, it MUST BE submitted in person at an application acceptance facility. The State Department has a webpage that will help you find the one more convenient for you. Facilities with “photo on site” will be able to take care of the photo requirements for you.
Click here to search for acceptance facilities.
Begin Before You Believe
Right now you might be thinking that a vacation or trip is just not going to happen anytime soon so why bother going through the hassle and expense of getting a passport? It is because these small acts that you take toward a big dream that will day help you make it a reality. Even though a dream vacation seems like an impossibility you must begin acting like it is possible now. I think you’ll be surprised to see what happens if you do.
Now go get your passport!