Passport requirements, both in the United States and around the world, are quite strict. The rules dictate who can apply for a U.S. passport, what is required to obtain one, the proper way to use it and the procedure to renew it. U.S. passports are issued by the United States government to its citizens. They verify identity and citizenship while traveling abroad. A passport is now required to travel to all foreign countries.
All citizens of the United States are eligible for a U.S. passport. Citizens must submit a passport application at a U.S. passport office or through an authorized agent at a post office, library or local government building. The application must be accompanied by a birth certificate or naturalization certificate, valid photo identification, two passport-sized photos and a passport processing fee. This fee is $100 for citizens 16 years and older, as of 2009. A passport application takes about a month to process and is valid for 10 years.
Children 15 years and younger must apply for a child passport. This can only be done at a passport office in person with a parent present. In addition to all the documents required for an adult passport, a child passport application must also be accompanied by proof of the child's relationship to the parents. This can be a birth certificate with the parents' names on it or an adoption decree. The parents must also sign a consent form allowing the passport to be processed. If only one parent is present, then the other parent must fill out a notarized statement of consent form. The fee is $85 for a child passport, as of 2009. The application takes about a month to process and is valid for five years.
U.S. passports should be renewed at least six months before they expire. Many countries forbid entry to those with less than six months' validity left on their passports. U.S. passports can be renewed through the mail as long as the old passport is not damaged, was issued no more than 15 years ago, was issued under the same name and was issued to someone at least 16 years old at the time. If you do not qualify, then the passport renewal must be applied for in person. You are required to submit a passport renewal form, two passport-sized photos, a fee of $75 and the old passport. The old passport will be invalidated and returned to you as a souvenir. Passport renewals take about a month to process and are valid for 10 years.
All U.S. citizens are required to present their valid U.S. passport to immigration officials upon departure from and entry into a country. This includes departure from and entry into the United States, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean countries. In the past, movement between these areas did not require a passport in some instances. That has changed. Airlines also require you to show them your valid passport before they put you on a flight. Immigration officials sometimes stamp the pages of a passport to indicate the place and date of an entry into or exit from a country.
Visas are required by certain countries for citizens of certain other countries to visit. You must apply for a visa at an embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit. If a visa is granted, a stamp is placed on a page of your passport. When you arrive in that country, the visa in your passport is stamped along with the passport itself to signify that you entered the country and used the visa. The issuing country will only grant a visa if the passport is valid. Some countries will only issue visas if the passport will be valid for six months past the planned date of departure from their country.