A valid passport is required to travel abroad and return to the United States. This requirement now applies to travel in the Western Hemisphere, including trips to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
For first-time applicants or a minor child, you must complete an application (Form DS-11) and submit it in person--along with two photos, proof of citizenship and a fee--to a Passport Agency, such as the Post Office, City Clerk's Office or Federal Office. Once issued, you may renew a passport by mail.
A passport is valid for 10 years. For minors under 16 years old, the validity is five years. The application processing time for routine service is four to six weeks. For expedited service, allow two to three weeks.
As of 2009, first-time applicants pay $100. Renewals cost $75, and the cost for minors is $85. Expedited service is available for an extra charge.
Renew your passport six months prior to expiration to avoid problems obtaining foreign visas. Report lost or stolen passports to the nearest passport office or consulate abroad.
Keep a photocopy at home in case of loss or theft. For frequent travelers, add more visa pages before running out of space.
Article Written By Donald J. Ford
Donald J. Ford, Ph.D., is a writer specializing in business, education and travel. He has published books and articles on these subjects. He is also the president of Training Education Management LLC, a management consulting business in Redondo Beach, Calif. He is an alumnus of University of California, Los Angeles.