The summer season is just about here so we are thinking vacations!! If you are leaving the country you will need a current passport, so here are some tips about passports, from when you need one to getting one renewed.
If you are applying for a passport, send in your application as soon as possible, especially if it is nearing its expiration date. Some countries require that your passport be valid for six months after a traveler’s entry or return date. Passports issued to passengers 15 years old and younger are valid for five years, for those 16 and older are valid for ten years.
Processing times in May are about four to six weeks for regular service and two to three weeks for expedited service.
You must apply in person if:
- You are a first time applicant.
- Your passport was lost, damaged or stolen and you must also complete form DS-64 if the passport was lost or stolen.
- Your old passport expired and was issued more than 15 years ago or before you turned 16.
- Your name has changed since your last passport was issued and you have no documentation reflecting the change.
- You are 14 to 17 years old . A parent or legal guardian, with his or her own ID, must be present if you do not have acceptable identification. Parental consent is required for children 16 or younger. Both parents must appear and present acceptable identification and proof of relationship (e.g. their names on the child’s certified birth certificate. Newborns and toddlers need a passport and must be present when their parents apply on their behalf.
You will need to fill out form DS-11 (but do not sign it until the passport official tells you to). You will need proof of U.S. citizenship e.g. an original or certified birth certificate, personal ID such as a valid driver’s licence or military ID. (Please be aware that the full names of the applicant’s parents must be listed on the certified birth certificate.) You will also need one 2″x2″ passport photo which was taken in the last six months. The fees are (as of May 2012) $135 for age 16 and over or $105 for younger than 16.
If your passport is running out of pages, and you are down to two to four visa pages, you need to add some more pages. Send your passport, Form DS-4085 and the $82 fee to National Passport Processing Center, PO Box 90106 Philadelphia PA 1910-0106.
For expedited renewal service by mail, send in the necessary forms and documentation plus an additional $60.00 and overnight delivery costs. Write “Expedite” on the envelope and the departure date on your application. To ensure timely delivery add the cost of two-way overnight delivery.
If you are leaving in under two weeks, make an appointment with a Regional Passport Agency. In Washington the center at 1111 19th Street NW is open from 8 am to 3 pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and on Friday from 9 am to 3 pm on Wednesday. To schedule an appointment call 877-487-2778.
For faster, but more costly service, use a private company. You will pay a flat rate based on the speed of service, plus government fees. Search online for companies and their prices.
You can find official passport information from the State Department Web site, www.travel.state.gov/passport. For a status report on your application, contact the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 or check online at www.travel.state.gov/passport/status/status_2567.html within five to seven days of your application.
Not sure if you need a passport? You need a passport for all foreign travel with a few exceptions. Since 2009 the United States has required Americans to carry a passport or an acceptable alternative when traveling to Bermuda, Mexico, Canada and 17 Caribbean nations. US territories such as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam are exempt as are cruises that begin and end in US Ports.
Childen younger than 16 traveling to the above destinations by land or sea cans still use their US birth certificate (original or copy) or another proof of citizenship to reenter the States. US Pasport Cards valid for sea and land crossings, but not for use in air travel, are acceptable for travelers of all ages. Cost is $55 for first time adult passport applicants, $40 for those younger than 16 and $30 for valid passport holders. For application information go to www.travel.state.gov/passsport.
Acceptabl;e alternative documents include Trusted Traveler Cards (Fast Cards), US Military ID with travel orders and Native American photo ID cards.