Travelling abroad can be both exhilarating and exhausting. In addition to the saving and planning you have put into the trip, you need to acquire a passport and even a visa in most cases. The government requires a lot of documentation to issue a passport and it is best done months in advance of your trip considering the process can take several weeks.
The application process must be done in person for first-time applicants, those whose passports have been lost or stolen, or who have passports issued more than 15 years ago. You must fill out a DS-11 "Application for a U.S. Passport" form, but do not sign it until the passport agent assisting you instructs you to do so. You must show proof of U.S. citizenship via a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship. Another form of current identification is required in the form of a state-issued identification card, driver's license, military identification card or government identification card along with a photocopy of both sides of this identification on 8 1/2-by-11 inch paper. Also, provide a 2-by-2 inch color passport photo that meets all requirements. Finally, you must pay your passport application fee.
Minors 16 and 17 Years Old
A few particular requirements apply to minor children of 16 or 17 years of age to establish identity. They must apply in person with their parent or guardian present. In addition to the filled out but unsigned DS-11 form, the minor or the parent must provide current photo identification along with the regulation passport photo and fee payment. Also, a minor's passport application cannot be accepted without parental consent.
Minors under the age of 16 also have a few extra required documents in order to establish identity. The universal required items include DS-11 form, passport photo and fee payment. To establish the child's identity a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization certificate must be presented. A birth certificate either domestic or foreign, report of birth aboard, adoption decree or court order of custody or guardianship establishes the relationship between the minor child and parent or guardian, according to the U.S. Department of State. Both parents or guardians must be present to provide their current identification along with consent for the minor child's passport. If one parent cannot be present, a notarized copy of written consent along with the photo copy of the absent parent's current identification will be accepted.
A few circumstances allow for U.S. citizens to acquire a no-fee passport. If you are travelling abroad on behalf of the government, with a spouse or parent who is travelling representing the U.S. government, or to honor a family member who died in service to the United State military, then you may apply for a no-fee passport. This type of passport is only issued by and through military, Department of State, Peace Corps or other federal government agency. Such a passport may only be used in service of the United States government as official duties and never for personal use, warns the U.S. Department of State.