It is not difficult to get a US passport, and it is an important document for anyone who travels regularly to have. This is especially true now that travel to Canada requires a passport. There are two kinds of passports: the traditional kind, which allows people to travel the world, or the new passport card, which allows travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The passport card can only be used if traveling by car or boat, not for flights to and from the country.
The most difficult part of getting a US passport is applying for the first time, which must be done in person. Two passport photographs, available at post offices, some drug stores, and select grocery stores, must be presented at the time of application to get a US passport. Applicants will also need photo identification, and a way to prove their US citizenship. A current driver's license and birth certificates are the most common ways to meet these requirements.
There are many places to apply for a US passport. Post offices, county clerks, and some town halls and libraries are all designated passport application sites. A passport fee will be collected at the time of application. The fee may change year to year; call ahead or check the US Department of State website for current costs. Applicants will be asked to fill out an application to get a US passport, DS-11, which can be downloaded online or filled out in the office.
Minors under the age of 18 have special requirements to get a US passport. At least one, but preferably both, parent or guardian must accompany them to the application site, and they need to present proof of the parent or guardian's relationship to them (birth certificate, adoption decree, or something similar) as well as the parent's photo ID. If there are two legal parents, but only one can go to the application site, the other parent must sign a notarized statement of consent (form DS-3053).
A US passport is good for ten years, unless the applicant was less than 16 years old when he or she applied for the passport, in which case it is only good for five years. Passport renewals should be done at least nine months before the passport will expire. Renewing a passport is much easier than applying for the first time; applicants only need to download the correct form (DS-82), and mail it into the National Passport Processing Center along with the current reapplication fee, two new passport photographs, and the most recent passport book or passport card. If the applicants name has changed, such as following a marriage or divorce, proof of the new name must be provided.
It normally takes four to six weeks to get a US passport in the mail. There are expedited services available for those who need their passport in a shorter amount of time. Although these services cost more, the passport will arrive in two or three weeks. There are also special passport options for those who need to visit another country due to a family emergency, such as the death of an immediate family member.