The time to apply for your passport is before you purchase your travel tickets. Passports are not issued the day that you apply. It is a process. It generally takes four to six weeks to get that passport once you have applied. So if you and your travel mates are talking about traveling abroad, you should begin your passport application process.
Do Your Homework
You do need to do some work before you submit your application. Complete your application before you go to submit it. You will save yourself a lot of time and headaches. You can get an application through the US Department of State website travel.state.gov You can actually complete most of the application online and bring it in with you.
Complete your application in BLACK ink. Yes, they really do want you to use black ink. And yes it is printed on the application.
You also need to bring in documents. You have to prove that you are a citizen of the United States. There are two documents that can prove this. Your birth certificate or your naturalization paperwork will prove you are a citizen of the U.S. You will have to submit the original document of proof of citizenship with your passport application.
Here's another tip check your birth certificate. Does it have a stamped seal by the state, county or city your were born in? And does it have the signature of a health officer or vital records department? If it doesn't you might want to go to your place of birth and purchase a copy of your birth certificate.
You need to bring a copy of your valid state issued ID. Valid means it can not be expired. And a copy means the front and back of the id.
You will also need to provide pictures for your passport. They are picky about the photos. Go to a place that takes passport photos. They will provide you with what you need.
Once again read through the information at the website if you have questions.
Set Aside Time
Some acceptance offices take appointments and some office don't. Check to see if the office you are going to takes appointments. If they don't be prepared to wait. It takes time to review all of the information for each passport application. If it is a convenient time for you like Saturday morning, it probably is a convenient time for everybody else. There may be a line.
We all know that there is only so much work one individual can complete in one day. Keep that in mind when you apply for your passport. Getting there earlier in the day will probably save you time. Do not wait until 5 minutes before the office closes to go apply.
Be Prepared To Pay
The fees listed on the Department of State are the fees if you are going to apply at one of their field offices. It doesn't include the fees that are required if you go to an acceptance agency. That fee is part of the convenience of not taking a trip to a large city to apply for your passport. The agencies accepting passports are not getting rich off of doing this. There are often times when the fees do not cover the cost of taking in the applications. Keep that in mind before you begin complaining about the price. Bring more than one form of payment to make sure you are covered. Bring cash check or a debit card with you. And make sure you know your pin number for your debit card. Keep in mind that I didn't say credit card!
Show Some Respect
Some individuals are just easier to help than others. You want to be one of those individuals. The people accepting your passport application hear everybody's complaints about the government. Most of these individuals have very little control over your complaints. Take them to the individuals who do have control. And keep in mind they didn't set up the system. You can only get a passport from one place. That is the Department of State in the U.S. You have to play by their rules. Keep in mind that civil servant may have information that may assist you. Information they don't have to provide. Treat them with respect and you are more likely to get that information. It's not a power trip! It's just human nature. Who do you like spending time with a rude person or a polite one?
Both parents need to be present if you are applying for a child. And yes, the child needs to be present when you are applying too! You'd be surprised how many people don't bring their child in.
If you one parent is not in the picture bring in documentation stating this. You'll need it. And bringing it along with you can save a lot of time and energy. Remember just because a parent doesn't pay child support doesn't mean they don't have legal rights to your child. Get the paperwork from the court saying you have sole custody.
Adopted children may require extra paperwork. Contact the Department of State before you apply to assure that you have it. Work with them to get what you need before you go to apply for the passport.
If you have changed your name bring the paperwork from the court stating that this occurred.
You can get your passport sooner than the 4 to 6 weeks. But it will cost about an extra $100.
If you were 16 years of age and your passport was issued less than 15 years ago. You do not need to go to a passport agency to renew it. Follow the instructions on the website for renewals. It's really easy and it can save you a huge amount of time.
Keep in mind travel is a privilege not a right. We would all be angry if they were just passing out passports to anybody who applied. It's one thing you have when you travel that shows you are a U.S. citizen.