As someone who has been daydreaming about traveling since childhood, would you believe that I just got my first passport 8 months ago? I didn’t see the point in getting a passport without concrete plans to leave the country, but it’s hard to make plans to leave the country until you have a passport…Part of what stopped me was the confusion of how to apply for a U.S. passport.
Applying for your first passport really isn’t confusing at all, though. It seemed like the must be a lot to it, right? I just didn’t know where to start.
Whether you have a trip on the horizon or you’re just dreaming about the possibility of one, it’s never a bad time to apply for your first passport; and it’s always better to have it sooner rather than later.
So if you need to know how to apply for a U.S. passport, don’t worry—it’s easy! Just follow the steps below and you’ll have your passport soon.
How to Apply for a U.S. Passport
Go to the passport section of the U.S. Department of State website and answer a couple of questions to find out what you need.
Print and fill out the required form. You can pick up a form at the post office or your local processing facility, but it will save you time to print and fill it out at home. Print the form as double-sided or else you may have to fill out a new one anyways. Do not sign the form until you are instructed to at the acceptance facility.
Gather all of the identification and documents that you need. You will need a piece of identification to prove that you are a U.S. citizen—your birth certificate will fulfill this need. You will also need photo identification, such as your driver’s license. Check the website for other acceptable forms of identification. Your original birth certificate will be sent off with the application, and returned with your passport. You will need to present your original photo identification, and a photocopy of it will be sent along with your application.
Get your passport photos. Many acceptance facilities will take a photo for you when applying, but some do not offer that service. There are places that cater specifically to passport photos, but you can also get them at a place like Walgreens. There is a list of specific requirements for your passport photo, so going to a place that specializes in that is ideal.
Bring everything you need from the steps above (application form, identification, and passport photo) to your local acceptance facility (the place where you turn in your documents and officially “apply” for the passport). Most post offices offer this service, but there are other places where this can be done as well. Check here to find your closest or most convenient facility. Double check to see if they offer the photo service and to see if they have a set time when they allow people to apply for passports.
Turn in all documents at the acceptance facility. They will tell you if you are missing anything/what you need, but it will save a lot of time if you are fully prepared. It should be a quick process (other than waiting in line) if you have everything with you. Pay the application fee (usually about $135, plus an extra cost if you are getting your photo taken on-site).
Now all you have to do is wait. Your U.S. passport should arrive by mail in about 6 weeks. There is always the possibility of a delay, so apply as soon as you know you’ll be leaving the country (or sooner, just in case you get the travel itch unexpectedly). There is an option for expedited delivery (3 weeks) if you are in a time crunch, but that will cost extra.
Get your passport! Once it has arrived in the mail, you’ll feel like the whole world is at your doorstep—and it is! The possibilities of where to go are endless. If you already have a trip planned, having your passport in hand will make it feel all the more real. If you don’t have a trip planned, what are you waiting for?
What’s the first country you’d like to visit once you have your passport?
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