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Passport 101: US

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Before heading to the airport to begin your vacation, it’s important to make sure that you have all the important documents you will need to travel abroad. Double checking that your passport is up to date and valid for crossing international borders, will alleviate stress in preparing for your trip and allow you to travel with as little worry possible.

All travelers, including infants, must have their own passport. For those who do not yet have a passport, make sure to apply for one several months in advance of your trip to avoid delays in receiving your documentation. The average processing time for a United States passport is six to eight weeks. For those who already have a passport, check to make sure that your passport will be valid for at least six months after returning home from your trip. If not, it is recommended that you renew your passport several months before your trip departure.

Applying for a Passport

Below are several things you will need to do in order to apply for a passport:
● Those applying for a passport for the first time must do so in person.
● Adults applying for the first time, children under 16, and applicants between the ages of 16 and 17 must fill out the DS-11 form.
● Collect and provide supporting documents including citizenship evidence, and identification. Provide the original copy, as well as a black and white photocopy of the front and back of the identification you are bringing on 8.5” by 11” standard paper.  Please note, If you are applying for a passport for a child under the age of 16, you must provide proof of your relationship to the child.
● Provide a 2” by 2” color passport photo taken within the last six months prior to applying for a passport.
● Calculate application fee.

Renewing Your Passport

If you still have your current passport, you may renew it by mail as long as it is undamaged, was issued to you when you were 16 or older, and was issued within the last 15 years. Below are a few things you will need to do in order to renew your passport:
● Fill out the DS-82 form if you are able to renew your passport by mail. If not, you must fill out the DS-11 form.
● Submit your most recent US passport along with an updated passport photo.
● If you need your name changed on your updated passport, you must include a certified copy of the legal name change document. This can include a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court ordered name change document.
● Calculate passport renewal fee.

Protecting Your Passport 

During your trip, we recommend that you take several steps to ensure the safety of your passport:
● Carry your passport on you while traveling through airports, and between different destinations. Do not put it in your checked luggage.
● Make a photocopy of your passport and keep it in a separate concealed place in your luggage.
● Use a passport cover to keep your passport concealed at all times.
● All travelers should carry their own passport. If you are carrying multiple passports, try not to keep all of them in one place to minimize the impact of a single theft.
● Try to carry your passport in the same place to avoid losing track of your document.
● When in private, check regularly to make sure that you are still carrying your passport.

To view detailed instructions and guidelines on how to apply for or renew a United States passport, visit travel.state.gov.

If you live outside of the United States and Canada, you may require further documentation for traveling such as a visa. Check with the nearest embassy of the country you are traveling to in order to determine whether or not this applies to you.

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