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How to Obtain or Renew a Passport, & Processing Times in 2021

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

So, your ready to travel internationally, but your passport is expired, or better yet, you’ve never set aside the time to apply for one. If this is your current situation and you want to travel internationally in the next few months, hold off booking the trip until you’ve applied for your passport. The State Department updated its website the other day, and if you need to get a passport, there seems to be some good news and some bad news. I’ll start with the bad news; it could take up to 4 and half months to receive your passport or renew an existing one!

So what is the good news? First-time appliers for their passports can participate in a new program the state department is offering. Check out the special passport fairs page for the State Dep’t website with a list. They say the list is continually updated.

A United States Passport is your gateway to international travel, not to mention an easier way to get through airports today. To Obtain a passport, you’ll need to apply to the U.S. government through a passport application process. The time to process the application and documents used to be 4 to 6 weeks. Now, post-pandemic, the lead times are closer to 10 to 12 weeks. You will need to prove your identity and wait for the government to grant you a passport as your travel document, which permits you to travel in and out of a country. You will need a passport upon arrival and departure from most countries. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide to help you obtain or renew your passport.

Obtaining a passport is easier than you think. It does involve some forms and personal documents(i.e., birth certificate, social security card) you may need to get before applying for your passport. Set aside time to complete this form when you are not distracted. Double-check the application form BEFORE you send it to the government. Errors will cause them to send it back to you and delay the process.

Keep in mind the information here is for U.S. citizens applying for a U.S. passport. If you are a citizen of a different country, you will have additional or even different rules. Check your home countries website and the regulations for your specific requirements.

So let’s get started! Documents and information needed:

  1. Application Form completed but not signed (CLICK HERE)

  2. Proof of U.S. citizenship

  3. Photo ID

  4. If Name Change (Proof of the change i.e. marriage certificate court papers)

  5. Passport photos (size and picture matters Link HERE)

Step 1: Head over to the computer and open up the U.S. Passports Website(Click HERE). All the most up-to-date information is on these web pages. You will need to review the different requirements between applying for a passport versus renewing one and select the best option that fits your situation. Options include:

  • First applying for a passport.

  • Renewing an expired passport.

  • Getting a replacement for a lost passport.

Your local post office also has these applications, and you can schedule an appointment(click here) to have them assist you if you prefer to apply in person and have someone else help you in the process.

Step 2: After you have printed your completed form, read the instructions on pages 1 and 2 to understand which documents you need to gather to fulfill each requirement. There are four pages of instructions in total. This step saves time and money, so you don’t omit or send incorrect documents.

Step 3: You have read about the documents you need. Now it is time to round them up.

For Proof of American Citizenship, you will need one of the following:

  • One option is a certified U.S. birth certificate issued by the city, county, or state. It cannot be a copy; It must an original government-issued document with a notary seal. The birth certificate must list your full name and your parents’ full names.

  • Records of birth abroad if you weren’t born in the United States.

  • Naturalization certificate

  • Certificate of citizenship

Be prepared to prove your identity with one of these:

  • Previous U.S. passport (altered or damaged passports are not acceptable)

  • Naturalization certificate

  • Certificate of citizenship

  • Current, valid:

    1. Driver’s license

    2. Government ID: city, state, or federal

    3. Military ID: military and dependents

Step 4: It’s time to get your picture taken! You will need two 2x2 inch color photos. The photo must be current, defined as taken in the last six months. You will need a neutral facial expression or a natural smile with both eyes open in the photo. Wear regular street clothes, and if you wear glasses, you cannot have them on in the image. No headphones or Bluetooth devices are allowed in the pictures. Most Walgreens or CVS stores will take these photos for a small fee.

Step 5: You are ready to fill out your application! You should have all the documents and information you need to complete your application. In filling out the form, you will need to provide your social security number. You will need to sign it in front of an authorized agent when the agent asks you to do so! Please do not sign it at this point.

Step 6: Now, it is time to find a passport acceptance facility to process your form and send them off. Most post office locations provide this service. Click here to find a location near you Bring all your documents and records with you to the facility—hand in your papers, application form, and acceptance fee, and soon you will have a U.S. passport in your hands!

Step 7: Your application is off to process, so now what? You can check the status of your application online here. It can take up to two weeks for your application to begin its journey in the system, so don’t be alarmed if it is not in there for a few days to a week after you send it off. Don’t be alarmed if you receive your passport and all of the other documents are missing. The supporting materials are mailed back to you in a separate package.

Strategies and Tips for Applying for and Traveling with your Passport

  • Passports or renewed passports are valid for ten years.

  • Children’s (16 years old or younger) passports are only valid for five years.

  • Put a reminder in your online calendar or smartphone to renew your passport up to 10 months before the expiration date.

  • Before booking international travel, check your passport expiration date. IF it expires within six months of your travel dates, some countries will deny your entry.

  • Email a copy of your passport to your travel advisor, leave a copy at home, and take a copy with you. (These need to be color copies.) If you lose or have your passport stolen, it is much easier to get a new one if you have a copy of the lost or stolen one.

  • Protect your passport, or you may get stuck out of the country! If it’s damaged or has missing pages, you could be denied access into or out of a nation. Passport covers are a cheap and easy way to keep your passport safe. Take the cover off while going through security, immigration, and customs. Slip it back on when you are through.

  • My final tip: get some stamps on that passport!

Whether you are just starting to think about international traveling or you are ready to start planning a trip today, reach out and contact us today for a planning call.

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