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While the many cheap travel options, including cheap fares, cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, cheap auto rentals, discount travel packages, and cheap vacation packages, encourage Americans to travel abroad, you need to make certain that you have your passport in order well before traveling.
The process of securing, renewing, or updating an American passport can be tedious, mind numbing, and overly complex.
The following are tips on how to best deal with applying for, renewing, or replacing U.S. passports, according to Smarter Travel:
• If you are applying for your first passport, you will have to show up in person. You will need to make an appointment at an acceptance facility or passport agency. Many US Post Offices can accept passport applications. Reservations must be made in advance to submit passport applications.
• The following is what you will need to take to your appointment:
1. A completed DS-11 application form
2. Proof of U.S. citizenship, ideally your birth certificate
3. Valid identification such as a state issued driver’s license
4. A Xerox of the front and back of your identification on a clean, white 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper.
5. Your application fee, which is $135 for a first time adult passport
6. Passport photos that most major drug stores such as CVS and Walgreens sell
• If you need to renew your passport, you can do so via the mail so long as your most current passport is undamaged, was issued when you were a minimum of 16 years old, and is not over 15 years old. You can expect, though there is no guarantee, a replacement passport back within four to six weeks so long as you mail in the required documents, fee ($110 for an adult) and photos.
• If your name has changed since your previous passport was issued, you will need to include an original certificate or court order that documents this. If you do not have your old passport, you will need to apply for a replacement in person.
• Lost or stolen passports require the holder to apply for a new one in person. Two forms must be turned in: the basic DS-11 passport application and Form DS-64 where an explanation is required concerning what happened. Be sure you report your passport missing once you are unable to find it by calling 1-877-487-2888.
• Always travel with a photocopy of your passport and other ID, such as driver’s license and birth certificate. This will make replacing your passport much easier if it is lost or stolen abroad. American travelers are encouraged by the State Department to get in touch with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate in the event of a lost passport. Replacement passports cost $140 and can usually be issued within a couple of days.
• If you want to add pages to your passport, you will need to mail in Form DS-4085 along with your passport and include $82.
• Travelers are advised to request more paper when they have two to four remaining empty pages in their passports.
• Expedited passports generally take two to three weeks via the State Department for those willing to pay an additional $60 as well as $12.95 for overnight delivery in addition to the standard processing fees.
• If you need to change your name on your passport, there is no fee charged so long as your passport was issued within the last 12 months. Otherwise you will have to pay standard renewal fees.
• Passports for children under the age of 16 face different fees and requirements. Parents must provide identification in additional to proof that they are legal guardians for child applicants. Two parent households must appear together with the young applicants or provide a notarized statement of consent from the absentee adult. Single parents must appear in person. Proof of legal guardianship is required such as a birth certificate or a court order.
• If at all possible, applications for new or replacement passports should be submitted a minimum of three months prior to any planned travel, so that any unexpected delays do not jeopardize future travel.
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