How to Get your First Passport

I had a friend recently get robbed. Her home was ransacked and her safe was popped open. They took everything inside including her precious jewelry. As we walked through the house talking about the things the burglar took and the things he left behind, I was probably most relieved for her that her passport was still in her filing cabinet safe and sound. I got my first passport when I was a teenager. It's probably one of my most treasured possessions. For me, I see it as my gateway to the world. If you are finding yourself limited in your travels and think it's time to get your first passport, read on. I've got everything you need to know so you can get your first passport.
how to get your first passport

Everything you Need to Know: How to Get your First Passport

us passport application
How old do you have to be to get a passport?

There is no age restriction for getting your first passport. However, a minor 15 and under, requires all parents listed on the birth certificate to be present. Children that are 16 or 17 require at least one parent's permission {either with a parent showing up in person with the minor or with a notarized document}

When is the best time to get a passport?

You need to allow at least 6 weeks before a trip to receive your passport. I have noticed that with the recent government shutdowns, the wait time is even longer. If you don't have any travel plans, there is no ideal time to get a passport, but don't let not having one limit you. I say, no time like the present!

Who should get a passport?

I think everyone should have a valid U.S. passport, but if you have family living or traveling abroad you should probably consider it. If you like to travel or are thinking of taking a vacation abroad or if you have a job that might require international travel.
how to get your first passport

How much does a U.S. passport cost?

Passports for first-time applicants 16 and older cost $145. This doesn't include any expedited processing or shipping fees. Children under 16 are $115. 

How long is a passport valid?

If you were 16 or older when your passport was issued your passport is valid for 10 years. If you were under 16, then your passport is valid for 5 years.

Where to get passport pictures?

I like to save money as much as the next gal, but I won't attempt to take my own passport photos, even though you totally can. There are just too many requirements I'm sure to screw up and I don't have time to wait in line at the passport office with all my documentation only to be turned away because the head size in my picture must be between 1-1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. 
I go to Costco. You can get several passport photos taken in around 15 minutes. I keep the extras in case I need them for visa application forms, so the $6 is worth it to me. You can also go to any of your local stores that have a photo department. 

Can I get my passport online?

If this is your first passport, sadly no. You have to show up in person. You can fill out your passport document forms online, but you have to print them off and come into your local passport office.
how to get your first passport

Do I need an appointment?

Some passport offices require appointments and will book out quite far in advance. Other passport offices do not require appointments and are walk-in only. If you plan on walking in, I suggest going at the beginning of the day before the office opens. I can almost guarantee you that there will be a line already forming. Many offices that are walk-in based, will close 30 minutes to an hour before closing so they can process those that are in line already. Don't show up 5 minutes before the office closes. You won't get in.
The hours of passport offices all vary, so check your local office and call ahead to make sure they will be open if your passport office doesn't require an appointment.

Are you a frequent traveler? Is TSA precheck worth the money? I'm telling you how I really feel about it!

What to Bring to passport office

The passport office will not hesitate to turn you away if you do not have the proper documentation. Make sure you bring everything you need {both parents listed on the birth certificate if you are applying for a minor} before you wait in line.
You'll need your passport application forms {available online}, an original or certified copy of U.S. citizenship documents, a photocopy of U.S. citizenship documents, any present ID, a photocopy of your ID, a photo, and a check or money order {credit cards are not accepted}. You will also need your social security number. 

Can I get a passport in a hurry?

There is a fee of $60 to have your passport expedited. If you need a passport immediately {within 72 hours} you need a life or death emergency you will need to show proof of the emergency through documentation. For passports needed in 2-3 weeks, you have to bring proof of your traveling and show up in one of the passport agency offices. For those who need passports in 4-6 weeks, you don't need a reason or any documentation, you just need to pay the fee.

Other important things to know about having a passport

  • Some countries require that you have 2-4 blank pages in your passport. Some airlines will not allow you to board if you don't. If you travel often, you can apply for a 52-page book.

  • Some countries require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates. Again, some airlines will not allow you to board if you do not.

  • If your passport is damaged beyond normal wear and tear {water damage, pages are torn or missing, or damage to the cover}, you will need to replace your passport.

  • If you change your address before your passport is expired, no worries. Just update it when you renew your passport.
Now you know it all! Visit here for more information and find the forms you need for your passport application.

disclaimer: this post may have affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing through them, I may receive a small commission. These small purchases help me to continue to keep writing content and creating at Rachel Teodoro. Thank you!

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