A beginners guide on how and where to get your passport
I recently went through the overly complicated process of getting a U.S. passport and I decided to write this short article sharing what I learned.
The first step is to apply. The process should only take a few weeks. There is a more costly way to get your passport if you need it immediately, but as I am not familiar with it, it's not covered here. There are a few places to apply, but the most convenient and reliable is at a post office that offers passport services. Check online to find the closest one to you. At the post office you will be given an application to fill out. It's not too big but you might need to take it home to get all of the necessary information. Along with your photo ID you will need to bring your birth certificate. You will be sending it, not a copy, along with the application. They will eventually send it back to you, but if you need it before then, as I did, you can get another at your local health department. Also, you will need passport photos. These are photos of you taken with specific dimensions. Photos that handle passports can take these for you when you present your application-for a fee. There is also a fee to apply. Between the application fee, passport photos, and a new birth certificate I spent roughly $150 getting my passport application in the mail.
If everything goes well you will receive your birth certificate and passport in the mail in about 6-8 weeks.
Things didn't go well for me. I'm a law abiding, tax paying US citizen born to law abiding, tax paying US citizens born to law abiding, tax paying US citizens and so on, pretty much as all American as a person can be. A few weeks after sending off my application I got a letter from the passport office telling me I needed to send more evidence to prove my identity. There was no reason for this stated in the letter, and when I called the passport office they wouldn't tell me why I needed to provide more evidence. I had properly filled out and sent everything necessary, and I've never been a victim of identity theft, so I thought this was kind of odd, but it's the government and apparently they do what they want when they want and they don't have to justify or explain themselves to you or me.
The list of how much evidence they want and what is acceptable is in the letter. It will probably take you a couple of days to track everything down. I sent copies of everything on the list I could find: copies of my insurance card, Costco card, work ID, 8 years of yearbook photos(a copy of the whole page) vaccination records, and several other documents. Pardon me for forgetting everything, but it was a mountain of papers. This was the bare minimum of what was requested, but it was all I could find. Make sure you send copies, you won't be getting any of this back. On top of all this, they send you an 8 page "worksheet" asking for detailed information on your self, your family, your life work history, your education, and even your baptism (!). I'm sorry if this is coming off like a rant, but the whole thing was kind of ridiculous.
After completing everything there is no way it will fit into the postage paid 8x5 envelope they sent with the letter. Go to the post office and buy a large envelope, put everything inside, then tape the envelope they sent to the outside of yours. Send this off and your passport and birth certificate should arrive in a couple of months as mine did. Congratulations, you are now allowed to travel out of the country!