Getting a PassportIf you don't have a U.S. passport, it might be wise to get the application process started now. Why? Effective June 1, 2009, every citizen will need a passport or other approved documents to get back into the country no matter where they've been or by what method they're traveling (land, sea, air).
**NOTE: This law may change before the deadline. To learn about the latest requirements, visit the State Department's web site. (Thanks to our readers for that tip!)
WHN TIP: Allow Adequate Time
Allow AT LEAST eight to ten weeks for the passport application process. Consider ten weeks for peace of mind. (The State Department says to allow eight weeks if they’re busy, yet how will you know when they're busy? Also, applications are heavy due to the new passport laws going into effect.)
WHN TIP: Passport Card
Traveling by land or sea to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda? You can apply for a passport card which carries the same rights and privileges as the traditional U.S. passport book. The card will have the same validity period as a passport book: 10 years for an adult, five for children 15 and younger. NOTE: The card can't be used if traveling by air. Visit the State Dept.'s website to learn more.
If you are applying for a passport, you:
- need your birth certificate
- need proof of identity (i.e. driver’s license)
- need two passport photos
- need cash/check/credit card to pay the application fee.
- MUST apply in person at one of the 14 passport agencies or at a passport acceptance facility. Read the State Department’s instructions on How to Apply in Person.
WHN TIP: Applying on Behalf of Minors
If you need a passport within two weeks, read the State Department’s instructions on How to Get Your Passport in a Hurry. You will also have to pay an additional fee ($60) for expedited service.
When you get your passport, make photocopies of the page with your photo and any visa pages. Keep this copy at home (leave it with friends and relatives) and also take a copy with you. Why? You’ll need it in case your passport is stolen and for proof of identification.