Applying for a U.S. passport, especially in today’s world, can be quite difficult. It is required, however, if you are going to travel internationally by any means, including planes, trains, cars, and even walking. There is a lengthy process to get a passport, so you should start planning early. You have to go through the U.S State Department to get it, and often go to a local post office.
Everyone who applies needs to complete the passport application and submit secondary documents to them so that they can verify that you are who you say you are. This goes for children, adults, immigrants, natural born citizens, and anyone who falls in between.
In order to get a valid passport, all applicants must complete the U.S. State Department’s Form DS-11 “Application for a U.S. Passport.” Your application won’t be processed if you fail to complete a step, something is missing, or you go in the wrong order. You can get the application at most local post offices, online, or any other place you can go to have your passport authorized. You must complete the application using black pen and black pen only; you must also print. It will request personal information like your social security number, birth information, current address, emergency contact, parental information, phone numbers, and even a physical description. While you can fill the form out at any time, it has to be signed in front of a passport acceptance agent.
Proof of Citizenship
The first thing you’ll want to have with you to submit your passport application is a proof of citizenship. This can be any number of things, including a birth certificate, a previous passport, a naturalization certificate, a consular report, or a certificate of citizenship. If you do not have any of these papers, there are other options. You can bring in certain hospital birth certificates, elementary school records, or a government-issued letter that notes you are a citizen, but there is no birth record that can be found.
Those are extreme cases only – most people will have to provide a traditional proof of citizenship.
Proof of Identity
Of course, you will also need to present a proof of identity with your passport application. For this, you can bring in a passport, government-issued ID, driver’s license, military ID card, or a naturalization certificate. You cannot use your school ID. You must bring a photocopy of the documents with you. While it can be black and white, the front and back have to be on the same side of the paper and the paper must be white.
If you do not have any of the aforementioned proofs of identity, you can submit several forms of secondary identification, including a social security card, an employee ID, a school ID, or a credit card. In some cases, you may also have a witness swear to your identity, though this is typically only accepted for young children.
A Passport Photograph
You must have a single 2”x2” passport photo with your application. The photos must be in color, must have been taken within the last six months, and must be in front of a white background. Most places where you can file for your passport will also take photos, but there are many other places that will as well.
When you take your photo, you must be looking directly into the camera with a neutral expression. There are plenty of examples on the internet of acceptable photos. Make sure you look like you would in your daily life: glasses, hearing aids, and other gear is acceptable. Hats are not.
Additional Documentation and Children’s Passports
For children who are under 16 years of age, you must have proof of identity for the parents instead of proof of identity for the children. You do, however, have to have proof of a relationship between the child and his or her parents or guardian. This can be a birth certificate, adoption decree, or court order. If both parents are not there while the passport application is being filed, that parent will have to present either proof of sole guardianship or a notarized statement from the absent parent saying that he or she is granting permission for the passport.