Getting A Passport Is Easier Than You Think

by garrett on August 18, 2011

In the past, a quick weekend jaunt to Mexico, Canada or many Caribbean countries was possible with a birth certificate and other valid, recognized identification. With the new emphasis on security, however, carrying up-to-date travel documents is a fact of life. Getting a passport may seem complicated but is usually a relatively simple prospect.

The Application

A good place to start would be the U. S. Government website where it is possible to download an application. You can also pick one up at the post office. Downloaded copies must be in black and white ink, printed on standard-sized 8-1/2 by 11-inch matte-finish medium weight paper. Any damage such as rips or staple holes will usually cause a rejection.

DS-11 Form

The official form designation is DS-11. If this is your first document, it must be presented in person. The same holds true if your old copy was stolen, has lapsed or if your name changes. There are certain special requirements for minors and those applying from outside the country. If none of those categories fit you personally, filing by mail is sometimes an option.

An application may be filled out on line and then printed or downloaded blank and filled out by hand in black ink. New applicants should delay signing until they bring it to a government-designated acceptance facility, which is often located in a court clerk office, some public libraries, the post office or some other local government facilities. A quick online search can provide the closest location.

Proof Of Citizenship

Having legal proof of citizenship is absolutely a requirement. This may be in the form of an undamaged or altered previous passport or, most commonly,an official certified birth certificate from the city, county or state of your birth. To be accepted, this document must be an original, bearing the embossed seal of the state registrar. If you do not have one, these documents may be officially reissued upon request.

Birth Certificate

For naturalized citizens or those born in other countries without a certificate or having other special circumstances, the government website will provide guidelines. All applicants must verify their legal identity via a driver’s license, military identification or a state or local government ID. All applicants will need to provide a new photo taken wearing standard clothes and other normal identifiers like glasses.

Color Photo

The new photo should be no more than six months old and should meet all requirements including dimensions and facial angles. While it may be easiest to have it created by a commercial photo service, the post office is often able to do the same. You may even do it yourself using the Department of State’s free on-line photo creation service on line.

Bring or know your social security number. To avoid a surprise, check the latest costs, which increase regularly. If you are in a rush, an additional fee can speed up the processing. Standard applicants should be able to check the progress of their documents on line about a week after submission. With a little foresight, getting a passport is often a smooth process that leaves you more time to plan that anticipated trip. You can even get an urgent passport if that is what you need.

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