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Have you ever thought about traveling outside of the United States? In order to travel abroad you will need a United States Passport, but dont’t worry this post covers everything on how to apply for your first passport or how to renew a US Passport.
Applying or Renewing a US Passport
The first step in apply for or renew a United States passport is to locate your nearest passport acceptance facility.
Most Post Offices accept passport applicants and will provide you with the correct forms to fill out. They will also take your required 2×2 inch photo and go through all of the paperwork before they mail it in.
Your local court house is another great place to fill out and submit a passport application but they usually don’t take passport photos so you will need to provide those on your own.
To do it yourself you can go online here to print off, fill out and mail in your passport application. For a new passport you need to fill out the DS-11 form and for renewing your passport you fill out the DS-82 form. When doing it yourself you will need to go to a place like Walgreens or a local photography shop and get a 2×2 inch photo printed off and attach it to your passport application.
- When getting your photograph taken for your new passport you must follow some guidelines. The photograph should be less than 6 months old, glasses are not allowed, you must wear a plain shirt without a logo visible in the photograph and you cannot have your head or face covered, unless you provide a signed notice for religious purposes.
For those who like having no hassle and faster processing times you could use a 3rd party agency to do all the work for you. It will cost more but they are beneficial if you need your passport quick.
The costs for a first time passport is $110 + $25 acceptance fee and for a passport renewal it is $110.
Are you going to travel outside of the country but you plan on staying in North America? You could get a passport “card” which is is not a full passport but a small ID card that is only good only for traveling to Mexico and Canada. The cost is $30 + $25 acceptance fee for first timers or $30 for a renewal.
If you feel like you want both a passport and the ID card, when applying for both at the same time you are only charged the $25 acceptance fee once. Bringing the (first time) total to $165 and the renewal total stay will stay $140. (no discounts)
When applying for or renewing your United States passport you have two options, the standard passport option, which is 28 pages and 17 of those pages are good for stamps and visas or the large passport option, which is 52 pages, where 43 of those pages are good for stamps and visas. Both passport options are valid for 10 years.
The new rule as of January 01, 2016 is that you are now unable to “add” pages to your existing 28 page passport. With this rule the cost is now the same for either book size.
When I got my first passport in 2013 I went with the standard size because I did not want to pay the extra fee for the larger book. I did not think I would ever fill my passport up and if I needed to I could always add pages later. Turns out I filled it up! The good thing is now you can get the larger passport for the same price. Which I would recommend doing, you never know how many places you might visit in 10 years!
Always give yourself plenty of time when applying or renewing a passport! In 2013 I applied for my passport 7 months ahead of time. The government website says it takes a standard of 6 weeks to process. For most people their passport is ready in 4-5 weeks, some get lucky and have their passport in 3 weeks or less and for other people, it might take a couple of months. The best way to get your passport on time is to make sure all of your paperwork is correct, then you should not have any issues taking longer than 6 weeks. If you are short on time you could pay an extra $60 for an expedited passport that guarantees it is ready in 2-3 weeks.
For first time passports holders you will need to send in your physical birth certificate or a certified copy of it along with a current 2×2 inch photograph and the DS-11 form.
When renewing your passport you need to physically attach your old passport and a 2×2 inch photo to the DS-82 form.
The US government website has all of the forms and information.
My Passport Renewal Process
My passport had 4 full pages and 3 partial pages left when I renewed it in 2017. I still had a handful of years to use it so why did I decide to renew? Mostly location, I planned on visiting a lot of Asian countries, which for a few of them I would need to get a visa for. China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao, among others, all take up 1 full page for their arrival visa. That doesn’t even include the stamps I would recieve from other countries and depending on the immigration officer, some really ruin a page with how they stamp.
Even though I still had 6 years left on my passport I would have eventually ran out of room. When I booked my overseas flight I didn’t think about how full my passport was and I had less than 5 weeks to get a new passport before I left the USA for my trip.
I went with all my paperwork (the DS-82 form) to a neighboring town’s Post Office, planning on, unfortunately, paying the extra $60 for the expedited shipping. When I arrived to the Post Office the woman working promised me that the current turn around time for a passport renewal is 2 weeks. Not wanting to spend the extra $60 I took her advice and opted out from the expedited processing and crossed my fingers!
Luckily for me I got it back in time before I flew off to the South Pacific! My passport was sent in for renewal on March 1st and with the standard processing time I received my new passport on March 17th. Everything was shipped via standard ground mail and it was processed and returned to me in 16 days! That is some fast turn around time.
Another thing I learned when I sent my passport in for renewal is that you will receive your new one first and then a few days later your old passport will arrive in the mail, don’t worry your stamps and memories are not lost.
Cost breakdown to renew my passport in March 2017.
- $110 standard renewal fee (52 page at no extra charge)
- $15 for a passport photo (small town life)
- $6.65 for shipping
(Total cost of $131.65)
Final Thoughts for US Passport Application and Renewing
It’s time to travel, the world is now yours! Getting my passport has been the best thing I have ever done and I hope my tips on how to apply or renew a US Passport have helped inspire you to dream about traveling.