Steps For Getting Your First United States Passport

One of our missions at TravelCoterie is encouraging people of color to explore the world, and that’s something that eventually requires a passport. For the uninitiated, obtaining your first passport can be a complicated process. We want to simplify things for you by breaking down the process into a few steps:

Documents You Need

  • PAPERWORK – To obtain a passport, you must first be a United States citizen by birth or naturalization. Assuming you pass that first test, you should fill out the United States government’s DS-11 form. You can do that online by clicking here, or by hand, by downloading the application here.
  • PHOTOS – You will also need to include two passport photographs of yourself that provide a full front view of the face on 2×2 inch photo paper. You can usually get your image taken at neighborhood drug stores like CVS or Walgreens for around $8. You cannot wear glasses or head ware (hats, fedoras, etc.) when having your picture snapped and it must be taken within six months of your submission.
  • BIRTH CERTIFICATE – A birth certificate must include your full name, date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records (state, county, or city/town office), and the full names of your parent(s).
  • PROOF OF IDENTITY – You may submit items such as driver’s license (not temporary or learner’s license), Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, military identification or a federal, state, or municipal government employee identification card. Temporary or altered documents are not acceptable. Whichever document you choose, it must contain your signature AND a photograph that is a good likeness of you.
  • PASSPORT ACCEPTANCE FACILITY – To apply for your new passport, you must go to a local passport acceptance facility with all of the documents listed above. These locations, which sometimes provide free photo services, include some post offices, libraries or county courts. You can find the location nearest you by clicking here.

How much does it cost?

For first time adults, there’s a $110 application fee and a $35 execution fee, paid separately, which totals $145. For children under 16, the application is only reduced to $80. The additional cost for an expedited passport processing is $60. You may pay the passport fee by check, bank draft, cashier’s check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of State. You can pay the execution fee in cash or by debit or credit card, money order or check made payable to the Postal Service.

How long does it take?

Expedited service is extra, but you can have your passport back in your hands within three weeks of applying. The price for this service is more, and you’ll have to provide proof of immediate international travel (for example, purchased airline or cruise tickets). If you’re not in a rush, it can take up to six to eight weeks for the document.

To get started on your paperwork, head over to State Department’s website and begin filling out your online application.

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Eric has revolved in and out of passport controls for over 20 years. From his first archaeological field school in Belize to rural villages in Ethiopia and Buddhist temples in Laos, Eric has come smile to smile with all walks of life. A writer, photographer and entrepreneur, the LA native believes the power of connectivity and community is enriched through travel.

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