Did You Know Now Is the Perfect Time to Apply for a Passport?

Mail Boxes Times

Did you know it’s the perfect time to get a passport? These things take time and if you plan on traveling this spring or summer, you might want to consider putting in your application now before you have to stress out about it getting back to you in time. Passports are a crucial piece of the travel puzzle when you plan on traveling outside of the country so being clued in to why you need one, how to get one, and what you need before you can receive one is not only part of your preparation, but also a super important bit of knowledge.

So, starting from the beginning, why do you need a passport? There are so many more uses for a passport than you would think. The most common of course is international travel, but did you know it can also double as an official identification and offer certain protections while traveling? The acting principle of the passport is to allow you entry into foreign countries as well as re-entry when returning, but you knew that already. Probably the most important part of traveling with a passport is the fact that is undeniable proof of your identity and country of origin.  Which means when you leave or enter a country, as long as you have your passport, you should be able to do it efficiently with little time spent on furnishing additional identification or proof of citizenship.

So, obviously, traveling with a passport can get you in and out with less hassle, but let’s say you run into trouble; whether it is legal trouble, a medical emergency, or natural disaster having your handy dandy U.S. passport allows you to easily request assistance from your consulate. While the consulate will still assist you if you do not have a passport (lost or stolen), carrying yours with you will insure you are able to prove your identity and get access to help if needed such as: medical treatment, limited legal services, and even evacuation in the worst scenarios. Having your passport with you also allows you non-emergency services such as absentee voting, transferring government benefits, providing U.S. tax documents, and many others.

So, what do American consulate and world travel have in common with passports? You need one to get the most efficient service possible. When you apply for a passport you go through a strenuous process which allows you to prove you are essentially you and you meet all qualifications as a citizen to be allowed to travel. The background check is extremely through and there are a few things that can disqualify you such as felony drug convictions and unpaid child support. These dis-qualifiers are in place to protect those who do qualify by trying to prevent as much trouble as possible and allowing greater ease of movement and freedom for travelers.
So, we’ve talked you into getting one, but now that you want or need one, what is the first step. There are three distinct categories you will want to pay attention to: the application, the supporting documents, and the price. The application is pretty cut and dry. Much like any other application process you will enter all of your candid information from social security number, name, birthday, and much more. This initial form for a new applicant is called DS-11. The process is a little different for those who are reapplying or going for a passport renewal, but we’re focusing on newbies this time.

Now that you have your DS-11 completed honestly and to the best of your knowledge, you will need to submit the application in person with all of your supporting documents, unless you are submitting an online passport application; those rules are a little different and can be found here. According to the U.S. Department of State,: “When applying for a U.S. passport in person, acceptable identification with photograph must be presented at the time of application.” So you can choose from a list of acceptable identification such as: Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship, Fully-valid Driver’s License, Current Government ID, or Current Military ID. There are other forms of identification you can use as well if you are not able to furnish the most common ones which are referred to as Secondary Evidence of Identification and must be used in combination with an identifying witness. It’s definitely a harder way to go, but will work if you lack the initial support documents.

Choosing to submit your U.S. passport application in person allows you to keep your identification on your person after showing it to the clerk, but a photocopy of the ID and any other documents will need to be provided along with the paper application. The last bit of documentation is probably the most important, your photo.

The US passport photo requirements are pretty strict. You want it to look good, but the government doesn’t want to see your duck lips or selfie pose so they set rules as to how your photo should look. Are you now asking yourself: Then where can I get a passport photo? that doesn’t look awful? At Mail Boxes Times, we have been taking passport photos for many years and we not only know all of the passport photo requirements by heart, but we also know how to make your photo turn out modeling agency perfect. I know, shameless plug, but honestly we do a good job, so don’t be camera shy.

If you choose to take and print your own photo, here are a few things to be aware of. The size of your photo must be exactly 2×2 inches or 51×51 mm, with your head between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from chin to crown. That’s pretty specific if you ask me, but they want to be able to verify it is absolutely you. Another important guideline is the fact that the photo must not be older than 6 months and must display a neutral facial expression or natural smile. No silly faces or crazy stuff allowed…this time.

Once you have all of your documents and photos approved you then must broach the monetary aspect of the ordeal. World travel can be expensive, but if you plan ahead, your passport doesn’t have to break the bank. If you are over the age of 16 and it is your first time getting a passport, right now the going rate is $110 USD. The cost is lower is you are under 16 or if you are renewing, but where the real cost comes in is if you haven’t planned well enough. There are tons of services out there willing to expedite your application, shipping, and processing times, but you can avoid all of those additional fees by planning ahead and leaving enough time between your application and departure date.

Right now, according to the US Department of State,:” As of Tuesday, January 5, 2016, we are processing routine applications in approximately 4-6 weeks from the time of application.” So, if you are planning a trip in the next few months, now is the time to get your paperwork ready and submitted.

So, we’ve gone over the function of a passport and what it is good for, and we’ve gone over how to apply for one so you should be all set right? Well, before you head out on your worldly journey, we want to make sure you have taken the extra steps to ensure you are ready and as safe as possible.

One of the ways you can make sure you are being as cautious as possible is registering for STEP. Step is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service provided to US citizens and nationals traveling abroad. STEP allows you to register with your consulate before your trip in case of personal or political emergencies. It also allows family members to contact you if the need arises.

Another thing you should consider is recording the consulate information and write down this form number: DS-64. We hope this never happens to you, but if you end up losing or having you passport stolen, report it immediately. If you are already abroad you can utilize your consulate for help, or at home contact the US Department of State. You can even do it online if that’s your thing, just make sure you report it as soon as it happens.

Source: Mail Boxes Times

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