This blog post was updated on January 4, 2021.
With a US passport, the world is your oyster.
But, for many Americans, this fact is still not motivation enough to use their US passport to travel far and wide. According to Forbes only about 42% of American held passports during 2017. The same report added that, even though this figure has been improving over the decades, it was still behind passport-holder numbers in the UK (76% of the population held passports) and Canada (66%) the previous year. While a problematic work-life balance and measly vacation days (in comparison to those of most European countries) could be factors in not encouraging most Americans to venture out with their passports, there’s still no excuse: every American should have one!
Another aspect that may be holding back passport-holding Americans is the fact that they may have forgotten to renew their passport. This is crucial, as some countries that do require visas for US travelers will not grant one if the passport doesn’t have enough months of validity on it. Some countries would even require you have months of validity AFTER your departure date from their shores!
If you’re one of those who hasn’t browsed for cheap international flights because your passport is non-existent or you just haven’t mustered the motivation to get your passport renewed, then this post is for you. We’ll walk you through the process step-by-step, and assuming you’re a US citizen, you’ll be reassured to know how quick and easy the process is once you start ticking off all the boxes!
Applying for a Passport
Are you getting excited already? You should! Owning a passport will open up a whole new world to you — like, literally a world of about 185 countries and territories without a travel visa, or with a visa on arrival. Now that’s a good reason as any to start the application process ASAP! So here we go:
Step 1: Fill out form DS-11
This form is for first-time applicants, those under the age of 16, as well as those aged 16-17.
Step 2: Gather your supporting documentation
If you’re born in the US and over the age of 18 — easy-peasy — you’ll just need:
- Your US Birth Certificate
- Photo ID (most likely, this will be your driver’s license; however, there are other forms of ID that can also be used)
If applying for children under 16 years of age, you will also need proof of relationship documentation.
Step 3: Have your photo taken
You’ll need one 2″ by 2″ color passport photo.
Step 4: Be ready to pay
For an adult, the entire cost for a passport book is under $150. For children under 16 years of age, it is even less. In a rush? There is also an expedited service, which includes an additional charge.
Depending on which passport acceptance facility you present your application at, the method of payment may differ. Credit cards and debit cards may not be accepted at all of these locations so the safest bets are:
- Money order
Step 5: Submit your application
All applications must be made IN PERSON at a passport acceptance facility (one of the places mentioned above) close to you. It should take 4 – 6 weeks for you to receive your shiny new passport.
And there you have it! Before you know it you’ll be lounging in a far-off exotic beach, and feeling happy that you finally decided to apply for your very own passport.
You may also like: Damaged Passport? Here’s What You Need to Do!
Renewing Your Passport
If you do have a passport and have slacked off on getting it renewed (work, family, etc. have kept you occupied), then it’s absolutely essential you get it renewed right away. What’s the worst that could happen if you don’t have a renewed passport? You land that dream job that needs to travel in a week’s time, or your sister is unwell but she’s halfway around the world, or you’ve got the chance to visit Paris with a limited-time travel deal on cheap international flights… and the list goes on and on for how you could miss out if you don’t have a travel-ready passport. So just follow these steps and you’ll be ready to travel at the drop of a hat!
Step 1: Fill out form DS-82
If you’re older than 16 and your passport is undamaged (other than normal “wear and tear”) and was issued in the past 15 years, then you’d fill out this form.
Step 2: Gather your passport and required documents
No sweat. All you will need for the renewal are:
- Your old passport
- If applicable: any documentation to support a name change from your current passport (can be a marriage certificate, divorce decree, court-ordered name change document)
Step 3: Get your photo taken
You’ll need to get a 2″ by 2″ color passport photo. REMEMBER: Staple the photo to the application with 4 staples vertically in the corners as close to the outer edges as possible.
Step 4: Calculate your fees and pay up
You should be able to get your renewed passport for under $115. As it is with passport application, the preferred methods of payment that can be mailed in along with your application are:
- Money order
Step 5: Submit your renewal application
Almost done! Unlike for passport application, for your renewal, you need to submit your form and required documents by mail, so all that’s left to do is to mail your recent passport, name change document (if applicable), photo, and fees to the appropriate address:
- If you live in California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, or Texas:
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 640155
Irving, TX 75064-0155
- If you live in any other state or Canada:
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90155
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155
So there it is! Follow these steps and you’ll be browsing cheap international flights in no time. Because, with a valid US passport in your hand, the world looks like a way bigger place to explore!