Getting a passport for the first time is an exciting opportunity. It's your first step to becoming a world traveler, explorer and adventurer.
If you and your family want to travel outside of U.S. borders then it is mandatory to have a passport. This includes travel to neighboring countries like Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Remember Moms & Dads, these rules apply to infants too. If you have recently added a new member to your family, your baby will need a new passport too.
"Technically" passports are not required to board a cruise ship sailing from a U.S. port if your ship is returing to this exact same port - BUT, here at Vacationkids, we HIGHLY recommend that ALL family members have valid passports even when taking a family cruise. Having valid passports in hand will insure your identification and give you the freedom to travel without worry or hassle. Considering the pricetag for your trip and the invaluable cost of a memorable family vacation, the money spent on a passport is a small price to pay for your peace of mind.
Applying for a passport is a relatively simply process, so follow along here step by step and we'll have you and your family enjoying foreign vacations in the exotic destinations that you've been dreaming out.
Step 1 - Eligibility Requirements -All persons born or naturalized in the United States are eligible to apply for a U.S. Passport. If you have questions regarding passport eligibility for yourself or any family members, it's best to check first with the U.S. State Dept regarding rules or any additional documentation you will need.
Step 2. - Get passport photos Taken -As part of your passport application, you will need to provide recent photos (taken withint the last 6 months) that meet specific size requirements. If your photos are not done properly they will need to be re-done before your passport application can be approved so it is important that you get this step right. Instant passport photos can easily be done at most local shops that offer photo processing and printing. Each passport applicant must provide one photo which must...
- Be a Color photograph
- 2x2 inches in size
- Head size between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head, taken in front of a white or off-white background
- Have a natural expression.
- No hats or head gear is allowed
If you are confident in your digital photography skills, the state department has a link on taking your own digital passport photos along with a photographer's guide including Tips and FAQ on taking, scanning and printing photos.
Step 3 - Gather your Required Identification Documents -
EVERYONE applying for a passport must prove to things to the passport office
1. U.S. citizenship
2. Proof of Identity
1. Required Documents to Prove U.S Citizenship...... You will need to include these original documents along with your passport application. They will be returned to you along with your new passport.....
For ADULTS -
- A certified birth certificate has a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar's signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office, which must be within 1 year of your birth. It must also include the full names of both of your parents. ***(If you need to obtain a new certifiied copies of a birth certificate, do a websearch for "birth certificate (state where you were born)" and this should connect you with the correct vital records department)
- Consular resort of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
- Naturalization Certificate
- Certification of Citizenship.
If you do not have or cannot obtain any of these legal documents then you will need to apply using secondary types of documentation which is a different process.
For Kids - Same documents and requirements as adults.
2. Required Documents to Prove Identity... Be prepared to present one of these forms of ID when you apply in person for your passport. You will also need a PHOTOCOPY FRONT & BACK of your official ID that will need to be included with your passport application.
For Adults -
- Valid Photo driver's license
- Current Military ID (or dependents)
- Current Government ID
- Naturalization certificate.
- LADIES - If your current ID name does not match your birth certificate due to marriage/divorce you will need supporting paperwork to support why you currently have a different name.
If you do not have any of these official forms of identification then you will need to apply using secondary forms of ID.
For Kids UNDER 16 years of age - When it comes to children, Parents or guardians need to show proof of relationship. This can be done by using....
- Minor's CERTIFIED U. S. birth certificate that includes both parents names.
- Minor's CERTIFIED Foreign Birth Certificate that includes both parents names.
- Minor's Report of Birth Abroad that includes both parent's names
- Adoption Decree with adopting parent's names
- Court Order establishing Custody
- Court Order establishing Guardianship.
For Kids OVER age 16 - ID requirements are the same as for an adult.
Step 4. Fill Out and Prepare your passport Application - Each member of your family will need to complete the passport application form DS - 11 . The link here will step you thru filling out this form. IMPORTANT!!! - DO NOT SIGN your passport application. First time applicants for passports must appear in person and you will need to sign your application in front of an official.
FEES - It is important to your photo and required documentation in order for every member of your family BEFORE you make your appointments and apply for your passports. This is because the Passport Application Fees are non-refundable processing fees and is retained by the Department of State whether or not your passports are issued. It will also save you a ton of time and hassle.
Passport fees will be paid in person at the time of your appointment...
Adult passports (valid for 10 years) - $110 + $25 execution fee
Children's Under 16 (valid for 5 years) - $80 + $25 execution fee
Be prepared and understand the Payment instructions be for you head off for your family's passport appointment. In many cases you will need TWO separate checks to pay separately for passport and execution fees. Please know you do have the option to pay a bit more for express processing services.
Step 5. Apply In Person For Your Passport. - Now that you have done all of the prep work to get passports for your family, the next step is to schedule an appointment to go and make your application. When getting passports for the very first time, you MUST apply in person just this one time.
So where does your family go to apply for their passports? There are passport acceptance facilities all over the country at post offices, libraries and local government offices. Click on this Link to search by zip code and find an office close to you. There are also regional Passport centers and passport offices if you are in more of a hurry to get your passports returned.
When your family arrives at their passport application appointment, a government representative will go over your application to insure that you have all of the necessary and required documentation in order. You will need to present your official ID's (Don't forgets you will need photo copies of these same ID's front and back to accompany your application). You make the appropriate payments for all your family members. The official will ask you to swear that everything that you have present is truthful and not fordged in any way. Your passport applications will then be processed and returned to you in 4-8 weeks.
That's it...Your Done!!!!
This all may seem a bit daunting at first, but if you follow the instructions step by step, it's a fairly easy process. Good news is, you only have to do this every 5-10 years for your family. Next time around it will be a LOT easier. You will be able to renew your passport by mailing off your existing passport with a new photo, form and fees.
Remember, when you plan your family vacation with Vacationkids, we're here to answer your questions every step of the journey, including navigating you through passport applications. You CAN plan a family vacation abroad before you apply for your passports. You just must insure that the names you use on your airline tickets match the exact names that you will be using on your passport application or you will be subject to name change fees. Be sure to allow a minimum of 2 months to get your passports returned to you and if you have any doubt, be sure to take cancel for any reason travel insurance.
If you have a question, please justAsk Mom ASK US.