What Are Requirements for Passports?

What Are Requirements for Passports?
The U.S. government requires all U.S. citizens traveling via land, sea or air to have a passport, passport card or other travel documents approved by the Department of Homeland Security whenever they go in and out of the country. Passports are now required for U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from all international destinations, including Mexico and Canada (as of March 2010).

When and Where to Apply

When applying for a passport, you should allow a period of six to eight weeks for the processing of the passport application before your intended travel. Expedited processing is also available at an added cost. There are some types of travel, like for some cruise lines, that may require a passport number issued 75 days prior to travel dates.

You can apply at any passport agencies and also in more than 7,000 public places that accept passport applications all over the United States. You can find the nearest location by entering your ZIP code at the Passport Acceptance Facility search page at the U.S. Department of State website. In various states, passport renewals may be done by mail if certain conditions are met.

Proof of U.S. Citizenship Requirements

You can prove your citizenship by providing the following legal documents:
original birth certificate (if born in the United States); old (undamaged) passport;
original certificate of citizenship--FS-240 or DS-1350 (if born outside the United States); or original certificate of naturalization issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Office.

If you changed your legal name by way of marriage or through a court approved process, you need to provide evidence of the name change by providing a certified copy of either the marriage certificate or the name change court decree.

If you are a first-time U.S. passport applicant or if you don't have the certified birth certificate requirement, you also need to provide: a letter of "No Record" issued by the state with your name, date of birth, which years were searched for a birth record, and a statement that there is no birth certificate on file for you; and as many of the following as possible (documents are preferred to be early public records showing date and place of birth, ideally within the first five years of life): baptismal certificate;
hospital birth certificate; census record; early school record; family Bible record
and doctor's record of post-natal care.

You may also submit an Affidavit of Birth, form DS-10, from an older blood relative (parent, aunt, uncle, sibling) who has personal knowledge of your birth. It should be notarized or have the seal and signature of the applicable acceptance agent.

If you were born abroad and do not have a consular report of birth abroad or certificate of birth on file, and your claim of citizenship is through birth abroad to one U.S. citizen parent, you are required to provide: foreign birth certificate; proofs of citizenship of your U.S. citizen parent; and affidavit of U.S. citizen parent showing all periods and places of residence or physical presence in the United States and abroad before your birth.

If your claim of citizenship is through birth abroad to both U.S. citizen parents, you are required to provide: foreign birth certificate; parents' marriage certificate; proofs of citizenship of your U.S. citizen parents; and affidavit of your U.S. citizen parents showing all periods and places of residence or physical presence in the United States and abroad before your birth.

Personal Identification Requirements

When applying for a U.S. passport, acceptable personal identification requirements must be presented at the time of application. These should be any of the following primary identification documents: previously issued (undamaged) U.S. passport; naturalization certificate; valid driver's license; current government ID (city, state or federal); or current military ID (military and dependents).

Prepare photocopies of the identification documents you presented. Photocopies should be on plain white 8 1/2-by-11-inch standard paper stock, showing the front and back of the document. Each photocopy must contain images on only one side of each page submitted. If copies cannot be made on the same side of one page, you may present using two separate pages; one displaying the front and the other displaying the back of the document. The photocopied document should also be free of other images and/or markings. You may enlarge the image of your document, but you may not decrease its size.

You need two pieces of identical, colored passport photos, following the quality requirements for passport book and passport card photographs. As of March 2010, the photos should follow these requirements: 2 by 2 inches in size; 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; and dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)

You should also prepare the passport fee and see the methods of payment available. Choose the best payment method for you. You may check the amount of fees at your chosen passport facility or through the State Department's web site at travel.state.gov.

Article Written By Rianne Hill Soriano

Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance artist/writer/educator. Her diverse work experiences include projects in the Philippines, Korea and United States. For more than six years she has written about films, travel, food, fashion, culture and other topics on websites including Yahoo!, Yehey! and Herword. She also co-wrote a book about Asian cinema.

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