How Does a Passport Work?


What a Passport Does

A passport is an official document verifying citizenship for the purpose of international travel. It also acts as identification and citizenship confirmation. A passport, which looks like a small book, contains the owner's name, photograph, place and date of birth, gender, passport number and expiration date. You can only obtain a passport from a country where you are a citizen. If you have citizenship in multiple countries, you can have a passport for each.

How to Apply for a Passport

To get a new passport, you must go in person to an authorized passport office. These include many post offices, public libraries and state, county, township, and municipal government offices. You must bring proof of citizenship, like an original birth certificate or naturalization certificate. You must bring a valid photo ID, like a driver’s license. You must also bring two passport photos. A passport application can be filled out at the passport office. The fee for a new passport is $100 for people 16 and older. The fee is $85 for 15 and younger. Allow at least one month to process your passport.

Getting Visas

Some countries require visas for citizens of certain other countries. A visa is a stamp in your passport that gives you advance permission to enter a country. Check with the embassy of the country you are visiting to see if you need a visa. If you do, you must fill out an application, submit your passport and pay a fee. You can take it to the country's embassy or consulate, mail it in, or pay a visa service to get it for you. Allow several weeks to process the visa and have your passport returned to you.

Using a Passport

When you enter a foreign country you must present your passport to immigration officials. They will usually stamp it indicating where you entered the country. You must also present your passport when you depart the country and re-enter the United States. These stamps provide a record of your travel.

Renewing a Passport

It is a good idea to renew your passport at least 6 months before it expires. Many countries will not let you enter if you do not have at least 6 months' validity remaining on your passport. You can renew your passport through the mail if you send your current passport. But it must be in good condition, issued in the last 15 years, and you must have been older than 16 when it was issued. You must also have the same name or can document a change. The fee to renew a passport is $75. The renewal application can be downloaded from the website below.

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