So you’re ready to see what’s out there…
You’ve thought about it for years, telling your friends, “Italy seems nice” or “I’ve always wanted to visit Australia.” and now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and see the world.
The first thing you’ll need to do: Get a passport.
This is a part of my How To Travel Solo series of blog posts. As time goes on, I’ll have more posts in the series and different series’ to help organize my blog and make it easier for visitors to navigate.
Because I’m American, I’m going to summarize the American Passport System and the process for legal U.S. citizens. If you’re renewing your passport, you can do so here
What is a Passport?
Simply put, a passport is a government issued document that lets you travel to other countries. As long as you’re older than 16 when you apply, it’s valid for 10 years.
A passport usually has the following identifying information in it:
- Your name
- Your nationality
- Your picture
- Your date of birth
- Your signature
The moment you reach a new country you are required to present your passport to Customs and Border Officials. In most cases, No passport = no entry.
It’s one of the only ways to prove you’re who you say you are. So if you lose your passport while you’re in another country, you’re in a heap of trouble. This is why it’s important to have multiple photocopies of your passport.
There is a process (which takes time) and a fee to obtain a passport, which is all described below.
How to Apply for a Passport
Applying for a passport can seem daunting at first. You might have all these ideas in your head of how it’s a process and it’s going to be so much work. You may also be thinking about this huge decision you’ve decided to make.
I mean, you’re about to set off and see the world. Who wouldn’t be at least a little nervous to take such a monstrous leap?
Good news! It’s easier than you think.
Your first step is to find some documents. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Proof of Citizenship – Your birth certificate is your best bet. You’ll also need a photocopy if this.
- Identification – Have a driver’s license or other State-issued ID? Bring that along with a photocopy of it.
- Proof of Relationship – Only required for children under 16.
- Also, you should know your Social Security number
Next, you’ll need to take your passport photo. You can:
- Take it yourself – See here for requirements
- Pay for it – Corner pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid have passport photo services for a small fee. They’ll get it right the first time.
Now that you have the proper materials, you can apply for your passport!
To do so, you will need to fill out a Form DS-11 with one caveat: You have to apply in person.
You are however, able to:
- Fill out the DS-11 Form online. Follow the prompts.
- Or you can print the PDF and fill it out by hand.
Finally, you have to find a Passport Acceptance Facility near you. Your results will be mostly U.S. Post Offices and Clerk of Courts offices.
By doing all of these steps before you visit the office, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and a headache or two.
This blog post was a way for me to better understand the passport process before I apply for a passport myself while simultaneously building the website one post at a time. Some of the information may be inaccurate so please use the official Department of State website to avoid any problems you may face while applying for your passport. It’s where I found most of the information posted here.