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5 Tips for US Passport Application

Updated on October 4, 2016
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Deep down we all have a little bit of a nomadic side. Traveling is a passion that I hope to do more of in the future.


This past year, after months of planning and preparation, I was able to take my first adventure outside the United States. Of course, the first step in that process was to apply for a US Passport. Simple, right. For the most part, yes. However, there are a few things that I learned along the way, that will help make the process go more smoothly and lessen the chances of being turned away at the passport office.

1. Face-to-Face

The first thing you should know, although you can find the US Passport application online, and fill it out on your computer, you must print your application and apply for your passport in person at a government approved passport location.

Passport applications can also be found at:

2. Black and Blue

While filling out your passport application online and printing it off is ideal, it's not always an option for those who don't have easy access to either a computer or printer. If you must fill out your application by hand, please remember to use black ink only.

While I was waiting in line to apply for my passport, I witnessed a family of five be immediately rejected during the passport application process simply because the forms were filled out in blue ink, resulting in their frantic rush to find five black ink pens and starting all over again. Although the form does state "black ink only", some people seem to either take it as a mere suggestion, or don't notice it at all. Thankfully, mine were all filled out online and printed, leaving me with no worries about illegible handwriting or incorrect coloring.

3. To Sign or Not to Sign

After you've taken the time to fill out your application form, checking and double checking that every line is complete and correct, one thing you don't want to do is sign that application form. This area must be blank when arriving at your application location, and then signed only when the clerk tells you to do so. Why? They must witness you signing the application and then match your signature with the other forms of identification you've provided, such as a drivers license or state issued ID. If you do sign the form ahead of time, you'll be immediately turned away and the application form must be filled out again, minus your signature.

4. Picture This

All passport applications must be submitted with a passport photo, but not all passport locations have the equipment to take a passport photo for you when you apply. Make sure to call and check with your location before heading over.

There are places such as Walgreens, Walmart and Sears photo departments that can take your passport photo for a small fee. Most of these locations will list this service on their website, or a simple phone call will let you know if this service is available at their location.

If you choose to take a passport photo on your own, remember these simple requirements:

  • Photo must be in color
  • Photo must show the full face of the person, facing forward toward the camera
  • Photo must be 2" x 2" in size
  • Photo may NOT be printed on regular copy paper, must be photo quality paper
  • Photo must have a plain white or off white background
  • Person in the photo may NOT wear clothing or accessory items that conceal or alter their normal appearance:
    • uniforms (except daily religious attire)
    • hats
    • sunglasses or other tinted glasses
    • non-prescription glasses
    • scarf or headdress (except daily religious attire)

5. Timing Is Everything

Applying for your passport should be number one on your "things to do" list when planning your trip to another country. Why? Simple, because it can take weeks, even months, before your application is processed, approved and your new passport is mailed to you.

If you are in a pinch for time, you can get your passport application expedited, but keep in mind that doing so also entails an extra fee, and will still take a few weeks.

If you need more in-depth information about obtaining a US Passport, please visit the US Department of State website at

Happy traveling!


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