Getting a Passport for Travel

An American passport on a map

How to Get an American Passport

“Life is a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

With apologies to our readers from other countries, the resources in this section detail how to get an American passport for travel.
The United States has the lowest number of passports for travel issued per capita than any other developed nation. That’s embarrassing! By deciding to get your passport, you are stepping forward and declaring yourself as more than just the average American who could care less about what is going on outside the U.S.

Because of the constant tightening of security in the U.S., getting a passport can take up to eight weeks or more — apply for yours immediately once you decide to travel! Expedite fees are expensive; don’t let the government bureaucrats delay your trip start. Add additional time if you need to have your birth certificate reissued. Begin the process of getting a passport first, before the rest of your trip planning.

Where and how to get a passport for travel? Requirements can and do change as security procedures update, so we’re better off referring you to the U.S. Department of State passport page.

You Must Apply for Your First Passport in Person

Don’t panic: you can probably do so at the main post office in your town. If you live in a rural/small town, you may have to drive to the nearest city to apply in person.

Note: Some passport facilities require appointments. Check before you just turn up!

What Is Required to Get a U.S. Passport?

  • Completed passport application form (form DS-11). Print the PDF from the site above (or use their tool) and fill it out completely.
  • Proof of US citizenship (birth certificate or another form of very certified proof) The birth certificate must be original, not a copy!
  • Photocopy of further identification (state drivers license, student ID cards, etc)
  • One qualifying passport photo of yourself that meets all the photo requirements. Many post offices can take these for you or you can get it done at pharmacies with on-site photo departments. Don’t try to create a photo yourself by taking a selfie or your application may be rejected without a refund!
  • A check to pay the sizable processing fee. Personal checks are accepted, however, credit and debit cards are not.

What If You Can’t Find an Original Birth Certificate?

  • Don’t worry, this is normal. You can find out where to get certified copies of vital records such as birth certificates from each state at the National Center for Health Statistics. The cost is usually minimal.

What to Do After Receiving a Passport in the Mail?

  • Admire its glorious, expensive beauty and just think how it will soon drink the ink of immigration stamps from all over the world!
  • DO NOT LOSE your passport!
  • Using PENCIL, fill in the personal data and emergency contact page. Then sign the passport with ink.
  • Take care of your passport. Treat it like your baby. If your passport shows abuse or damage, officials may raise eyebrows at border crossings. They can even deny you entry.
  • American passports are hot items on the black market. Store your passport in a safe or lock box when it isn’t on your body.
  • Did we mention not to lose it? 🙂

Go to Step 2: Planning Travel