Obtaining a Passport

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Getting a United States passport takes a lot of steps and paperwork. If you're looking to travel abroad, make sure you apply for a passport far in advance, because it does take a long time to get it back. Remember that you need a passport to travel to Mexico, also.

Things You'll Need

  • Original birth certificate
  • Valid ID (driver's license or military ID)
  • 2 identical 2-by-2 inch photos
  • Social security number
  • $100
  • Obtain a passport application. You can download an application from the Internet or pick one up at your local post office (see Resources below).

  • Complete the application, but do not sign. You must wait to sign the application in front of a government official.

  • Take 2 identical 2-by-2 inch photos. You can have these photos taken at Kinko's or Walgreen's, or you can take them at specific post offices for an additional fee.

  • Gather together the following documents: your original birth certificate (or proof of United States citizenship), 2 identical 2-by-2 inch photos and a valid government-issued identification (driver's license). Take these documents with you to the passport agency or post office.

  • Provide the agent with the application and all your documentation. You will then need to sign the form in the presence of the government official.

  • Pay the acceptance fee of $25 to the post office. For the application fee ($75 for people 16 years and older; $60 for 15 years and under), you need to make out a check or money order to the Department of State.

  • Select expedite service if you need your passport in 2 weeks. The fee for expedition is $60 additional to your acceptance and application fees. It's also suggested that you choose overnight delivery service for sending your application and receiving your passport. You will need to pay the standard U.S. postal rate for overnight delivery mail. If you need your passport sooner than in 2 weeks, you must provide a copy of your purchased plane ticket to an international location.

  • Check on the statue of your passport online (see Resources below).

Tips & Warnings

  • Passports usually arrive within 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Adult passports (16 years or older) last for 10 years; child passports (15 years or younger) only last for 5 years.
  • Always provide an original birth certificate, as copies will be rejected.
  • You are not guaranteed to receive a passport sooner than 2 weeks through the post office. Some non-government passport companies provide this service for you, but with huge fees.
  • When taking your photo, do not wear a hat or anything that will obscure your face.
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