Not too long ago, a passport was not necessarily required for travel
between many countries. Things have changed a great deal in the last
decade or so, and now a passport is needed for almost every
international destination. United States territories, of course, do not
require a passport, but almost every other country does. The passport
information below should help ease the process for you.
One new advance is the passport card. It fits in your wallet and is not
as expensive as a passport book, which is the traditional passport
form. It is only valid for travel to and from Canada, Mexico, and most
of the Caribbean nations. It is also not valid for international travel
by air, and is useful only for sea or land entry across borders. It may
also not be adequate for every nation, as some may ask for additional
documents. It is best to check your specific destination before
choosing this for your upcoming trip.
In most cases, international travelers need a traditional passport
book. This has long been the standard requirement for travel across
borders. If you already have a passport and meet all of the
requirements, you might be able to get a renewal passport through the
mail. It will, however, be necessary to apply in person if this is your
first passport or if your old one was issued more than 15 years
previously. Personal applications can be made at most post offices and
many county offices. These locations are usually more convenient than
the regional agencies that the government operates.
Regardless of whether this is a new passport or a renewal, you will
need to provide proof of your identity and citizenship. You will have
to provide two identical color photographs of sufficient quality.
Background and size restrictions also apply. The pictures taken in
booths such as you find at the mall are inadequate. Many post offices
are equipped to take the photos, and many businesses or stores can also
provide them for you.
Summer is the busiest time for passport issuance, and during that time
it may take up to 3 months to get your passport. You should plan to
make your application in plenty of time to receive it well ahead of
your scheduled departure. Even during off-peak times, it can still take
a month to a month and a half for processing. If you need to trim about
half of the wait time from your passport application, you can pay an
expedited services fee.
When you are in a foreign country, be sure and guard your passport.
Should it be stolen or lost, report it immediately to the U.S.
Consulate or embassy. They can help you obtain another passport or
provide the documentation you will need to exit the country and return
to the U.S. Since this is not normally an easy chore, you should make
every effort to avoid it.
A parent behind on payments for child support may find his or her
application for a passport denied. A child may not be allowed to exit
the country during a custody dispute. In addition, unless the mother or
father has proof of a court decree granting sole custody, both parents
must sign a child's passport application. Every child, even an infant,
must have his or her own passport. Getting a passport for a child is
not much different in terms of the documentation required. But the
parent must also establish proof of the child's relationship.
If an emergency arises that requires you to travel immediately, you can
apply in person at a regional passport agency. You will need to furnish
the usual documentation for a passport, but you will also have to
document the emergency. In the event of the death of a relative, for
example, you might have to produce a death certificate. You may also
have to prove your relationship to the deceased.
With the many changes in United States passport information that are continuously occurring, it is always best to verify the most current information, particularly the requirements of your destination. Be sure to make your passport application in time to meet your departure schedule.
The passport laws sure have changed in the United States. Before U.S. Citizens could travel almost anywhere in North America without a passport, including the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada. Those days are over.
I already got my new passport book and passport card. Plus I read that many states, like Texas are working with the Federal Government to make a version of their state Drivers License a valid travel document with the same weight as the Passport Card issued by the U.S. Dept. of State. That should cut down on the number of documents you need to travel, at least in North America.