It is easier to apply for a passport today than it was a few decades ago. Improved technology allows people to take their own passport photos, websites provide forms that can be filled out before you head to your appointment, and improved technology allow passport agencies to finish the process in weeks instead of months.
When: First-time applicants should begin the process at least six months prior to their departure date. This allows documentation to be reviewed, additional information provided and some time in case the agency experiences a flood of applications. Special circumstances can expedite your application but it is better to plan ahead.
Where: Passport Agencies are located in most major cities. Passport Acceptance Facilities are places like post offices, libraries and other government and township locations that accept passport applications. These locations allow people to apply for a passport close to home. An appointment is required so call the nearest agency or facility to schedule one.
Forms: Like most important documents, the proper forms are required to start the process. People who are applying for their first passport need . This form is available online as well as Passport Agencies and Passport Acceptance Facilities. If you fill this form out online and print it, do not sign it before your appointment. Black ink is required if you prefer to fill out this form by hand. that are printed out then filled out by hand need to be single sided copies. Make a copy of this form and keep it for your records. You may have to refer back to this form during your application process.
Documentation: There are many personal documents that you will need. Photo identification such as a valid driver's license, an employee identification badge or a military identification card are a few of the photo IDs accepted. A certified copy of your birth certificate is also required. Certified birth certificates have an embossed seal and a signature that certifies that the copy is real. Marriage licenses and divorce decrees may also be required. Passport application employees can assist you before you arrive for your appointment. Contact your local agency for more information.
Passport Photos: A passport is the document that will allow you to travel safely to other countries. Passport photos must be recent and are required to be two by two inches square. The photograph needs to have a light colored background. You can take your own passport photos if you have a digital camera and a quality printer. All passport photos must be on photography paper. Many passport agencies and facilities are able to take your passport photo on site. One hour photography studios and many other in-store photography studios offer passport photo services.
How Long: Generally four to six weeks is required before a first time application is processed and the passport is mailed. Occasionally errors with the form, documentation or an abundance of applications can cause a delay. You are able to track your application status seven days after you apply for a passport. will guide you through the steps needed to check the status of your application.
Denial: The Department of Health and Human Services receives reports from state Child Support Agencies. Anyone who is behind in their court-ordered child support payments in an amount larger than $2,500 will have their passport denied. Once your name is on that list it can take months to have it removed after you have paid up your arrearages. The Internal Revenue Service will intervene to deny your passport application if you owe back income tax.
While the process may seem daunting, it is as easy to apply for a passport as it is to apply for your driver's license.
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