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How To Get A US Passport - Travel Abroad

Updated on February 7, 2013

How To Get a US Passport

It takes some time to get a US Passport - like months! So, if this is your first time, prepare yourself. First, you will need to fill the application correctly and legibly. If you don't print well, have someone else do the printing for you. Secondly, there is a high probability that you will be asked to provide more information, even if you feel you provided all the information necessary the first time. Thirdly, if you do not provide this information in the manner in which it was requested, it will be rejected and you will need to resubmit the information correctly. Last, but not least, you have a limited amount of time to complete the passport process.

For First Time Applicants or Those Under 16 Years:

  • You must apply in person
  • If the applicant is under age 16 years, there will be a need to provide the other parent's permission (notarized) OR a certified court order proving you are the sole custodial AND legal guardian of the child OR a court override over the other parent.

To Prove Your Citizenship Status, You Will Need One of the Following:

  • Certified birth certificate (with a raised, embossed seal)
  • Consular report of birth abroad
  • Naturalization certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship

Now, what if you were born under one name but now have another last name? In that case, you will need a certified court order demonstrating your current name or a marriage certificate (that will establish you took your husband's name). If you have neither of those but still have a different last name, you can prove it's legit by a combination of the following:

  • showing income tax returns with that last name
  • having 2 friends vouch for you with written statements saying you used that last name for more than five years on the special form provided by the US Passport office (and it must be notarized!)
  • other records acceptable that show that last name in use for the last five years

I did not know my natural father and have not seen my natural mother for many years so I was challenged by one of the requirements on the form, which is that you fill out information on your own parents when applying. Well, that was a tough one but the Postal Clerk was very helpful with figuring it out for me, based on my birth certificate. Usually, there's enough information on your birth certificate to answer the questions about your parents but if there isn't, there is a number you can call to ask for help.

You'll need a photo that satisfies the US Passport office's parameters.


Oh, Photos!

You will need a special passport photo that is a certain size and taken a certain way. Get your photo taken at the US Postal Office or the nearest Kinko's/FedEx office for a fee. This way, you can be assure that the photo you submit is the one that satisfies the US Passport Office's requirements.

Passport Fees

The fees vary, according to how old the applicant is, if it's the first passport requested, if the passport application process is being requested to be expedited and if a passport card is also ordered. The shipping that expedites the application process ranges in price from $12.72 to $60. If you factor in that the average passport costs $140 (new passport for adults), there is the photo fee of $10-15 and the processing fee of $25, you can see how the fees add up quickly. The expedite fee is an added $60. The method of payment is cash, check or credit card. However, not all facilities that accept passport applications take all three forms of payments. Call ahead to the location you plan to take your application to and they will let you know if they can accept your preferred method of payment.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Passport?

The time expected to process your application can vary with the time of year you apply. Some times of the year are busier than others. There are expedited choices that will speed up the process as fast as 24 hours or a few weeks. There is some information that will slow down the process. For example, when I took the traditional route and applied for a passport for my children, they came within four weeks. Yet, because I had changed my name as an adult differently than is now done (I changed my name the old fashioned way by walking into the DMV without any paperwork and then doing the same at the Social Security Office in my life prior to 9/11 and thereafter filing taxes and using that new name in everything I did), there was some research and extra documentation the passport office requested from me. I still received my passport but it took a bit longer to receive it. However, if you go the traditional route, you will need to wait up to two months. In some isolated cases, it has taken the applicant six months to receive a passport. While it may take a while to receive your passport, mostly due to the understaffed nature and backlog of the US Passport Office, it is a small price to pay for a world waiting to be explored and enjoyed....

How Long Did It Take To Get Your Passport? (NOT Including Expediting)

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5 stars for The Agony of Getting a US Passport


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    • Li Galo profile image

      Li Galo 5 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      Hi blindbias... You'll find all the information for expediting an application is in the video clip. But I added the expedite fee to the text. Many thanks for your comment!

    • blindbias profile image

      blindbias 5 years ago from Baton Rouge

      Good article, just a suggestion: Consider adding info on expediting an application, which is a separate service and fee but critical if someone needs a passport (new or renewal) in under 2 weeks or even 1 week.