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How to Get a U.S. Passport in Time for Travel

Updated on July 1, 2012
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Timing is everything

Getting a passport can be a timely process. Standard processing takes 4-6 weeks. Make sure that you gather all your forms and documents in plenty of time so that when you begin processing, you are guaranteed to receive your passport before your trip. I would recommend starting the process 3 months before leaving the country for extra time. Nothing would be more disappointing than NOT having your passport in time for a trip!


Expedited Service

Expedited services can allow you to get your passport in 24-48 hours. The DS-82 form must be submitted. The form should be mailed by 2 day mail with “Expedite” written boldly on the envelope. All your forms and requirements must be sent together.


DS-11 Form

The DS-11 form is the official application for a U.S. passport. It can be completed online or it can be printed. If printed, it must be filled out and wither mailed in or taken to your local federal building. The application is 6 pages long so make sure to fill the form out completely.


Choose a card or book

When applying for a passport you can choose either a card or book. The card can only be used for travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. The book can be used for travel anywhere in the world. U.S. citizen may possess both a card and a book. Books come as either standard 28 page books or as a non-standard 52 page book.

Proof of Citizenship

Proof of citizenship requires specific documentation depending upon how you became a citizen.


· Born in the U.S.-original birth certificate (with embossed seal)


· Born abroad-Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth,Naturalization Certificate, or Certificate of Citizenship


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Passport Photos


Passport photos have very specific requirements.


· Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head


· The photo must be current (taken no more than 6 months prior to processing your passport)


· Must be in color


· The size of the photo should be 2 by 2 inches


· You should be in normal street attire


Identification Card

The requirements for the photocopy are also quite specific so pay close attention:

Photocopy must be on plain white, 8 1/2 x 11" standard paper stock, showing the front and the back of your ID

  • Photocopy mustcontain images on only one-side of each page submitted.
    • If copies cannot be made on the same side of one page, you may present two separate pages; one displaying the front of the ID and the second displaying the back of the ID.
  • The paper should be free of other images and/or markings.
  • The 8 1/2 x 11" paper size cannot be substituted with a larger or smaller size paper, even if the alternative folds down to the 8 1/2 x 11" size.
  • You may enlarge the image of your ID on the 8 1/2 x 11" page, but you may not decrease the size of the image.

Pay the application fee

The application fee must be paid at the time you start processing your passport.There are prices based on the types of passport as well as the age of the applicant. Expedited services require and additional fee.

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    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      KrystalID, great step by step instructions with hints and cautions for anyone applying for a passport.

      As you point out, the passport card is cheaper, but is more limited in its use than the book. You can use the book to travel anywhere by any means. You can't use the card if you fly to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean, but you can use it if you are on a cruise. Without at least the card, you can't get into Canada to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

      We are going on a cruise and my son and his wife need passports. I'll pass your info along to him.

    • KrystalD profile image
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      KrystalD 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Getting a passport was a big move for me and I was intimidated. My hope is that this hub will make the process clear and easy for others. Thanks for commenting bankscottage and I hope you all have a great trip :)

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