Applying for a Passport

» Posted by on Oct 11, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In February 2010, I decided to apply for a passport even though I didn’t have immediate plans to travel internationally.  It has been my dream to travel to a tropical island so I wanted to be prepared in case the opportunity arose.  I stopped by my local post office to pick up the application.  Applications are not only available at post offices but other acceptance facilities or passport agency.   I was told to take the form home with me, fill it out, and then make an appointment with the post office in order to complete the application process.  There are two types of passports to choose from.  I opted for the book because the card cannot be used for international travel by air.  It can only be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry.  The positive side of the passport card is that it is more convenient to use and less expensive than a passport book.

Along with the form, I was required to present one of the following items as my primary evidence of U.S. citizenship: 

  • Previous issued, undamaged U.S. Passport
  • Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county, or state
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship

Since I could not locate my birth certificate, I had to purchase one from the county clerk’s office of the county in which I was born.  A certified birth certificate has a registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office, which must be within one year of your birth. 

 When applying for a passport, you must submit a current photo and the following requirements must be met:

  • The photos must be identical
  • In color
  • 2 x 2 inches in size
  • Printed on thin, photo-quality paper
  • Taken within the past six months, showing current appearance
  • Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
  • Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
  • Taken in normal street attire
  • Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily
  • Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline
  • If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture
  • Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)

In order to ensure I met the above requirements, I went to a local drug store to have my photo taken since they advertise that they do passport photos.  The post office also provides this service.

The following week, I returned to the post office with my certified birth certificate, driver’s license, Form DS-11 (You must not sign this application until instructed to do so by the Acceptance Agent at the post office), photos, and a check to pay the passport fees.  The acceptance agent made the appropriate copies for me to complete the application process.  I signed the form and he told me I should have my passport within a month.  I actually received it within three weeks.  I signed it and filled out the emergency contact information as instructed on the letter enclosed with the passport.  The emergency contact information should be filled out with a pencil rather than pen in case something needs to be changed later.

Within six months of receiving my passport, I was on my way to Aruba for my honeymoon.  The trip went smoothly and traveling to another country was a great experience.  I know I will be using my passport for many trips in the future.  Now that I have returned to the United States, I will need to have my last name changed to my married name on my passport.  I have read the instructions on the state internet site on how to accomplish this task.  Since my passport was issued less than one year ago and my name has been legally changed due to marriage, I just need to mail the following to the address listed on Form DS-5504:

  • My current passport
  • Form DS-5504
  • An original or certified copy of my marriage certificate
  • Two recent photos

I will be completing this process as soon as possible so I will be ready for my next international travel experience!

By Cynthia Moore

The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.

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