April 22, 2017

What is a passport?

Officially, a passport is a travel document that’s issued by the government of the country where the holder lives. This document contains the holder’s photo, name, date of birth, address (at the time of the passports issuance) and other identifying information. It looks like a small, simple booklet. However, there’s a lot more to your passport than you’ll notice at first glance.

Passports are loaded with features that make them nearly impossible to fake. Since 2015, passports are required to be machine-readable, and many have chips imbedded in them that contain vital information. Also, many passports contain holograms, invisible ink, watermarks, and special materials. All this security is necessary because your government needs to know who is coming and going through its borders. It’s extremely important to keep your passport safe at all times — especially overseas, where stolen passports can fetch hundreds, even thousands of dollars.


How can I get my own passport?

The most important thing to remember is that the application process can take several weeks, so you’ll need to apply long before you’re set to leave on your trip. Most of the time, it takes six to eight weeks from the time you submit your application to receive your new passport. For an additional $60, you can have your passport expedited. You can still expect a two- to three-week turnaround for an expedited passport.

The steps are easy. First timers will need to fil out Passport Application Form DS-11. The form is long, but it’s really just basic information about you — nothing that would make you uncomfortable to answer. Next, you’ll need to gather some documents. These include proof of citizenship, a photo ID, and (for children under 16) proof of relationship. Next, you’ll need to have a passport photo taken. This is a two-inch by two-inch color headshot. You can have this done at most print shops. The last step is to take your application to an acceptance facility or passport agency. You may need to make an appointment.

Your passport isn’t free, but when you consider what it takes to research and then make a passport, the rates are actually quite reasonable. The passport book requires a $110 application fee and a $25 execution fee for adult (16 or older) first-time applicants, and a $110 fee for renewals. Children’s passports are slightly less — $80 application fee and $25 execution fee.

That’s about all you need to know about passports. The two main things to keep in mind are to apply well in advance and to guard your passport closely once you have it — especially when you’re overseas.