About a year ago, I applied for a passport for the first time.
The process was intimidating to me. I had asked friends and family about the experience and about what I should expect. They told me it was relatively simple and straight forward. You get your little photos, your little paperwork, and your little checkbook all together and submit it. Voila – passport in 4-6 weeks.
No one mentioned any problems with theirs or issues receiving it. I, however, was requested to provide additional documentation in the form of proof of identity. Today we’ll be going over how to apply for a passport if it’s your first time and some tips about proving that you are indeed you. Unless of course you aren’t….in that case, you don’t know me.
Step 1: Fill out the passport application.
Click the link above to be directed to the application form. Note that this is not an online application – as in, you are not applying for a passport online. You’re simply filling out the paperwork in a digital format which you will print and bring with you to a passport office. The office is where you will apply in person with all of your paperwork.
The application itself is rather straight forward, though you will want to make sure you choose the right county of your birth – I had to ask my parents. Once you have it completed, print out a copy or two.
While filling out the application, you have the option to ask for extra visa pages – I highly recommend this. Why not? You’re applying for a passport for a reason – go big or go home! It doesn’t cost anything extra to get them.
Step 2: Get your picture taken.
Or take it yourself! Passport photos have a very particular set of requirements to keep in mind if you choose to do it yourself. I was lazy and went to Walgreens and had them take it. You can get your photo taken at most post offices, UPS/FedEx, Walgreens and CVS locations. There are also plenty of little mom and pop shops around that do them too.
Note: You are not allowed to smile in the photo. At least all passport photos look equally like mugshots.
Step 3: Gather all your documents.
- Proof of American Citizenship – I recommend using your birth certificate. You’ll need to submit the original, a copy is not acceptable. I know it’s a little scary to ship it off, but it’ll be okay.
- Your printed passport application from Step 1
- Your passport photos from Step 2
- Current Identification – State ID, driver’s license etc.
- Photocopy of your current identification
- Your checkbook for the passport fee of $135 for a book.
Once you have everything together in a nice little packet, find the nearest passport office to you. The office will give everything a look over and make sure it’s solid then take your payment and give you an application number. You can use this to track the status of your passport application which is pretty cool!
Step 5: If they request additional proof of identification.
For some reason, my application was flagged. Maybe I look stoned in the photo. Maybe it was the dreads. I blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol (pop culture song reference, aren’t you proud of me?!).
I received a letter from the passport office asking for 5 additional pieces of information from me, that were 5 years old or older.
Items that you could submit include:
- A news paper clipping
- A nursing or pilots license
- Recording of a news broadcast I was featured in
- A marriage certificate
- Military identification card
- An old state ID (this cracks me up because THEY TAKE THEM when you get a new one!)
Who the hell has these things? Is it common to be in the news and I’m just not that special? Come on guys!
At that point I’m slightly freaking out “Can I not get a passport because I don’t have any of these super obscure things?!”. I called the passport office in a bit of a huff and was eventually directed to a super nice gentleman who told me a secret they don’t often advertise.
You can submit anything 5 years or older that includes your name and photo. That includes yearbook photos, college ID cards, HR records from previous jobs if they had your photo etc.
I went a little nuts then and gathered up over 15 additional proof of identification. I photocopied every yearbook photo I had. I printed all previous paystubs and enrollment info I could find. I went to my childhood doctor and got my medical records. I’m sure when they received the packet they were like “Okay, okay Ms. Hoffman, please stop producing proof of identification.”
I AM ZOOM! ROOOOARRRR!
Hopefully you won’t have to go through step 5, but if you do, you’re ready! I hope this post helps encourage you to get a passport so that you can leave the country and do some traveling! Flights to Mexico are super cheap…just sayin’.
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