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Like any official government document, getting your passport takes paperwork – and patience. But if you're traveling outside the United States, you'll need a passport when entering a different country and upon your return to the U.S. Previously, if you were traveling by car or cruise ship you could rely on your birth certificate or driver's license for yourself and your kids. That all changed in January 2007 when the passport rules became more strict. Now, everyone, regardless of age, needs to have a passport. Below are your top passport questions answered.
Q: How do I apply for a passport?
A: That's simple! Visit the U.S. Department of State's Passports & International Travel website to search for a Passport Acceptance Facility near you. At the website, you'll be asked to enter your ZIP code and then receive a list of the closest facilities. Libraries and post offices frequently have passport services available.
Q: What forms do I need to fill out to apply for a passport?
A: Adult first-time applicants and all minor applicants (16 and younger) need to fill out a DS-11 form. For adults who are renewing their passport, fill out the DS-82 form. Both forms are available on the U.S. Department of State website or at the Passport Acceptance Facility.
Q: What documents will I need to apply for a passport?
A: You'll need documents to establish U.S. Citizenship and to prove your identity. If you're renewing your passport, your old passport will work to fulfill this requirement. You may also need a certified U.S. birth certificate. Your old passport can prove your identity – a valid driver's license works, too. To apply for your passport, you'll need to bring your completed passport application form and a photo for your new passport, along with your documents proving U.S. citizenship and your identity to the Passport Acceptance Facility. You can visit any full-service AAA office to obtain your passport photos complimentary as a member benefit or at a very low cost.
Q: How long does it take to process my passport application?
A: For a regular passport application, it can take up to six weeks.
Q: How much does it cost to get a passport?
A: For a regular passport, the cost for a first-time applicant is $110 for the passport book and $25 for an execution fee. If you're renewing your passport, you'll pay $110 and won't have an execution fee. Minors are charged $80 for the application fee and $25 for the execution fee. Remember that you'll need a picture to go with your application, so that could be an additional expense if you get a professional photo.
Q: Yikes! I'm taking an international trip soon and I need a passport. Can I get one in a hurry?
A: Yes! You can get an expedited passport for additional fee. Expect to add $60 to your application fee for the speedier service. You can ask for the expedited service when you drop off your application at a Passport Acceptance Facility. Or, visit Detroit's passport agency (there are only 28 in the country). Call 877-487-2778 to learn more.
Q: It seems like it's been a while since I submitted my passport application, but it still hasn't come in the mail. What's the hold up?
A: Good question. To find out exactly what's going on with your application, go to the website and click on the "Your U.S. Passport" tab and select "Application Status" from the drop down menu. Follow the steps to receive a notification via email that will detail what's happening with your passport application.