How to Apply for Your First Passport: A Step by Step Guide - The Viking Abroad
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How to Apply for Your First Passport: A Step by Step Guide

09 Oct How to Apply for Your First Passport: A Step by Step Guide

Are you ready to travel abroad but keep putting off getting your passport? It’s actually a far easier process than you may first suspect. However, you’ll need to apply as soon as possible to avoid costly fees.

Read on to learn how to apply for your first passport today!

How to Apply: Fill Out Forms

You’ll want to download and print the relevant U.S. government forms as your first step. Before you download them, ensure that you have Adobe Acrobat installed in order to view the PDF forms.

You also have the option of using the Form Filler tool. This allows you to type in all your information through the government’s website, then print the form with a unique barcode afterward. It isn’t an online application.

The Form Filler tool also allows you to sign your name, but make sure you don’t make handwritten changes to the form once it’s printed.

Citizenship Evidence

When you apply for a passport, you need to show evidence of U.S. citizenship. If you were born in the United States, you’ll need to have a fully-valid, undamaged U.S. passport that can be expired, or a U.S. birth certificate.

Submit a photocopy of the front and back of your birth certificate. Ensure that it’s legible and black and white and on white 8.5” x 11” standard paper.

You’ll also need to present a government-issued photo ID that needs to be photocopied as well. You can present one of the following:

  • Valid or expired passport book or card
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Valid foreign passport
  • Government employee ID
  • S. Military ID
  • S. Permanent Resident Card
  • Certificate of Naturalization Or Citizenship

Passport Photos

You need to provide one photo that’s been taken within the last six months with your passport application. This needs to be a high-resolution color photo that’s printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper. The background needs to be white or off-white.

Use a clear image of your face that isn’t digitally changed with filters or Photoshop effects. Face the camera directly with no accessories blocking your face, with a neutral or smiling expression.

Make sure you’re wearing everyday clothes and not uniforms or clothing that looks like a uniform. If you wear head coverings or hats for religious reasons or medical purposes, you can submit a signed statement.

If you don’t want to take the passport photo yourself, check out this article for cheap places you can get your passport photo taken.

Passport Fees and Processing

There are a variety of fees you’ll need to pay through check or money order if you’re paying through mail or a passport acceptance facility. You also have the option of paying through a credit card at a passport agency.

Currently, first-time applicants who are 16 or older need to pay $110 for a passport book with a $35 acceptance fee. Renewing your passport is $110 without the acceptance fee.

To rush a U.S. passport application, you’ll need to pay an additional fee of $60 plus overnight delivery fees. It’s possible but not guaranteed to get a passport the same day you apply if you make an appointment at a passport agency or center.

Here are the processing times to expect, including mailing time:

  • Routine – 6 to 8 weeks
  • Expedited – 2 to 3 weeks
  • Expedited art Agency – 8 business days

You’ll need to wait 7 to 10 business days for your passport to be traceable online. You also have the option of calling the National Passport Information Center to check your application status from Monday through Saturday.

Passport Tips for Traveling

Once you receive your passport, before you travel you need to take preventative measures in case it’s lost or stolen. You need your passport to re-enter the United States.

Check the Expiration Date

Check your passport’s expiration date at least three months before an international trip. You’ll want it to be valid for the entire duration of your stay, along with an extra month or two in case your re-entry into the United States is delayed.

Some countries require that your passport remains valid for three or up to six months past the duration of your stay. Check the U.S. Department of State’s country information page to see their requirements.

Carrying Your Passport

If you’re leaving your passport within your travel accommodations, keep it in a locked suitcase, safe, or security box.

If you’re traveling with it, keep it under your clothes in a flat money belt or front pocket, which makes it less likely that it will be stolen. Carrying it in a bag is risky because the bag can still be stolen.

Make Copies

In most cases, you’ll need to show your original passport as you go through airport screening. However, in many places, you’re also allowed to use a photocopy. Not only does this let you keep your original passport in its safe place, but in the chance that your passport is lost, a photocopy can act as a backup.

You can also leave a photocopy with a trusted family or friend. Other travelers will scan their passport and keep a copy of it in the cloud.

Your First Passport

Knowing how to apply for your first passport is actually a straightforward and easy process to learn. All you’ll need to do is ensure that you’re applying far ahead of time. Then, focus on gathering the passport fee, citizenship documents, and photos.

Once you sit down to fill out the forms, you’ll have everything you need in order to mail or hand it over. Want a successful and stress-free vacation? Keep reading the blog for informative travel tips.


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