Travel tips: how to get a passport

SIX things you need to get a Passport:

1. Primary identification
Most use a valid driver’s license as proof.

2. Photocopy of primary identification
In order to process the application, present a copy of the primary identification being used (both sides).

3. Evidence of US Citizenship

Most use a certified birth certificate as proof. Make sure it has that raised seal. The office will not accept photocopies or just notarized copies as proof. To find these records, contact the local government in the area where you were born.

4. One Passport photo

A photo is required to get a Passport. Your local photo printing lab likely will take it for a few bucks. Some passport acceptance facility also will provide photo service on-site.

Yes, you can take your own photo — but you must follow some key instructions in order for it to be accepted.

Your Passport photo must be:

In color
Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper
2 x 2 inches in size
Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
Taken with a neutral facial expression (preferred) or a natural smile, and with both eyes open (source: travel.state.gov)

5. Payment

For first-time adult applicants, expect to pay 5 for a Passport Book. Personal checks, money orders and bank drafts are accepted. Exact cash is okay at some locations. (Also, the execution fee is paid separately. So, two checks are required)

6. DS-11 Passport application

This application can be filled out online. When finished, print it and bring it with you to the acceptance facility. Be sure NOT to sign this document until a processing agent asks you to.

What to expect:

Most first time applicants will receive a Passport by mail within 6-8 weeks after submitting all documents.

You can check the status online by visiting the Secretary of State website at travel.state.gov.

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