Video:How to Get a Passportwith Jonathon E. Stewart
Traveling abroad is fun way to see the places you've read about since grade school, but before you go, you're going to need a passport. Find out the details to getting a US passport, and what documents you'll need to do so.See Transcript
Transcript:How to Get a PassportHey guys - Jonathon Stewart here for About.com. Remember the days when you could just whisk away in your gondola and paddle on over to Palermo, no worries about security checkpoints, or 30-ounce shampoo bottles you forgot to put in a little ziplock baggie? Well, times have changed. And in this brave new world, if you're looking to travel abroad, you're gonna need a passport. Check it out.
What Is a Passport?A passport is a document issued by the federal government that confirms your identity, date of birth, where you're from, and what you look like. Or, since passports are valid for ten years, what you looked like when you were in college and decided it would be cool to backpack all over Europe.
Download Passport a ApplicationStart by downloading an application from your government's appropriate website. In the United States, you'll need to fill out a Form DS-11 if it's your first time applying for a passport. The application is two pages long and asks pretty basic questions about you, your contact information, and your intended travel plans. You can also fill this form out online - just remember NOT to sign your name until you're turning in your form in person.
Passport Books vs. Passport CardsNowadays you have an option to get either a US Passport Book or a Passport Card, but unless you're just planning to take a boat around the Caribbean or to Canada, you should probably opt for the Passport Book. Not that a sailing trip to White Horse isn't a totally viable vacation option.
Passport DocumentsNext, for a US Passport you'll need to show proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A complete list of accepted documents for both of these appears on the application instructions, but the most common forms are your birth certificate for citizenship, and a drivers license for identity.
Finally, you'll need to two passport photos, which must be exactly 2 inches by 2 inches, in normal attire, and in front of a light background. When you're having your picture taken, relax, and be yourself. While you can take these pictures yourself, the rules are pretty specific, so be sure to read up. And, since you still have to bring these to a passport issuing agency - most of whom also will take pictures for you - why not let the pros handle it?
Find a Passport AgentFinally, take your application, proof of citizenship and identity, fee, and pictures if you're gotten them elsewhere to an acceptance agent. While the list of these is also long, your best bet - and one that does not impose any additional processing fees - is your friendly neighborhood post office. Just be sure to check which days passport processing is available. If you already have a passport, renewing it before it turns 16 years old is about as easy as it gets. In the US, just download, fill out, and mail back a Form DS-82, include two passport photos and your fee and you're all set. Processing time averages about 3-4 weeks.
Quick Passport TurnaroundsYou can always expedite the process for a relatively steep fee, but even so, you're probably still looking at a couple weeks before you'll have your new passport in your hot little hands. If you're looking for a last second foreign weekend getaway, you can still drive to and from Mexico with just a driver's license. If you happen to get lost on your way back, just look for the six billion dollar fence that says Welcome to the US!
Thanks for watching! To learn more, visit us on the Web at About.com.