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Obtaining a Passport

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us-passport4Many people think that obtaining a passport is something only needed by people who travel a lot, or wonder if it's really worth all the money and time they've heard is required. However, owning a passport has become less and less a luxury and more and more a necessity as travel restrictions tighten. Even travel to and back from our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, has become dependent on a passport. Owning a passport is likely to become more of a necessity for just about every United States citizen.

First time application for a passport does take time, depending on how much documentation you may have to track down. Additionally, all first time passport applicants must apply in person at an authorized passport facility or agency. There are over 8,000 such offices in the United States, with the most common being your local . Other locations such as libraries, town and city government offices are also available for passport processing.

You may wish to start by finding such an acceptance office in your area. The has a link which can help you track down a local passport agency by zip code or city and state. Find out if the office you select takes appointments, as Passport application can take some time and lines can be long depending on the demand.

The application form you'll need is called a and can be picked up at any passport office or downloaded from the Department of State web page. Treat this form carefully as any illegible items will cause it to be rejected. If you print it on your local printer, have a new print cartridge so the lines are clear and not blurred. Fill it out with black ink only and be sure all entries are legible. Don't sign the form as your signature must be witnessed at the time you apply in person.

Citizenship documents are required for all passport applications. An original, certified Birth Certificate, Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship qualifies. You'll be sending these along with your application but the document will be returned to you with your passport. However, making a copy of what you're sending is always a prudent thing to do.

Passports require photographs of a very specific size and setting. Photos must be taken by an approved facility to meet these requirements. Local copy centers often take passport photos, but the easiest thing is to find a passport application office that also creates passport photos. That will allow you to take care of everything under one roof and save time.

Lastly, passport fees run approximately $100 when you figure in the application fee, the facility fee and cost for the photos. Mailing costs can go up as well if you need a quick turnaround. So budget for this expense and be ready to pay at the time of application.

There is more to learn about obtaining a passport for various situations so be sure to check out the U.S. Department of State web page for up to date information. Once you have your passport it will be good for the next 10 years. You'll be glad you took the time to apply when you sail through airport security on your next vacation!

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