Traveling abroad is an exciting adventure, but it is also an undertaking that requires additional preparation. As a U.S Citizen, one of the first things you will need to think about getting is a United States Passport. Before you even book your flight or reserve your hotel room, you are going to have to take care of getting a passport.
U.S. Passport Information
As of June, 2009, the U.S. State Department finalized the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. This initiative requires Americans to carry a passport when traveling by air, sea or land to Bermuda, Mexico, Canada and 17 Caribbean nations. The exceptions to this rule are the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Island and Guam as well as closed-loop cruises that begin and end in U.S. Ports. So, unless your are traveling to one of the countries considered exempt by the U.S. State Department, it is time to get a passport.
U.S. Passport Applications
One of the main questions we get from our clients is when should I apply for a passport? If you are planning on ever doing any international travel, you should just go ahead and apply for a passport. It is a great additional form of identification and it is nice not to have to worry about rushing to getting a passport when you are going on a spur of the moment international trip. In addition, getting a passport requires some time. Once the application is completed, it typically can take 4 to 6 weeks to receive your passport. By getting your passport in advance, you will not have to worry about not being able to go on your trip because your passport has not arrived in time.
For individuals who are applying for their first passport, have lost or had their passport stolen or have had a name change since their last passport was issued, you will have to apply in person to one of the 9,400 Passport Acceptance Facilities throughout the United States. To find a Passport Accemptance Facility close to you visit http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/.
U.S. Passport Renewals
If your passport is nearing its expiration date, it is a good idea to renew ASAP. This is important because some countries require passports to be valid for 6 months after a traveler’s entry or return date. In addition, in can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to get a new passport. By planning in advance you will not have to pay those exhorbitant expedited service charges.
As mentioned above, as long as you have not lost or had a passport stolen or had a name change prior to your last passport being issued, you can apply for a Passport Renewals through the mail. To renew a passport, you must first fill out DS-82 Application Form. You can get this application form at the US State Department website http://travel.state.gov/passport/. You will then mail this Application Form to the enclosed address along with your most recent passport, two identical 2-by-2 inch passport photos, and a check for $75.00. Your new passport should arrive within 4-to-6 weeks along with your original passport.
For expedited service, you can apply by mail or in person. For the mail-in application, send in the aforementioned materials plus an additional $60 processing fee. Be sure to write the word “Expedited” on the envelope and make sure that no proof of delivery is required. Also,pay for the two-way overnight delivery. This process should take 2-to-3 weeks. If you are leaving in 2 weeks or sooner, do not risk the mail. Instead you should make an appointment with your closest Regional Passport Agency and take care of it there.
U.S. Passport Status
To check on the status of your passport, go to the U.S. State Department website http://travel.state.gov/passport/ where the process is clearly defined. You can also contact the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778.