7 Things to Know About Passports

Written on September 07, 2023

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It’s always rewarding to plan your first family vacation or book that bucket-list trip you’ve been dreaming about for years. If you’re new to international travel, passports can be confusing. The following tips will help you keep you informed about passports before you head abroad.

1. Where can you apply for a passport?

If you are applying for your passports for the first time, you will need to submit your application in person. Your local post office and government offices are considered passport acceptance facilities and can take applications, and some libraries also accept applications. You can use this tool to find a passport acceptance facility in your area.

2. How long does it take to get a passport?

At time of posting (September 2023), it is taking between ten and thirteen weeks to receive a passport after the application has been submitted. If you opt to apply for an expedited passport (at an additional fee), you are likely to receive it within seven to nine weeks. You might receive your documents more quickly, but that is never guaranteed.

Always check your passport’s expiration date several months before travel to ensure you will have enough time to renew and receive a new passport if needed. Passports issued to travelers 16 and older are valid for 10 years. Passports issued to travelers under 16 are only valid for 5 years.

3. What’s the difference between a passport book and a passport card?

A passport book is the only document that is approved for international air travel. It is required for any travel to Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, and Antarctica.

A passport card is a wallet-sized document that can be used to re-enter the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It cannot be used for air travel to these destinations. The card’s original purpose was to serve those who live close to these borders and must cross them frequently.

Some travelers may be tempted to apply for a passport card because it is less expensive, but in most cases, it will not meet the requirements for travel. For cruisers, it is important to remember that in the event of an emergency you will not be able to fly without a passport book. It takes the same amount of time to receive a passport card as it would the passport book.

4. Do children need a passport to travel?

Yes. Any person traveling internationally needs a passport, no matter how young they are. A minor under 16 will need to have parental or a legal guardian’s consent to apply for a passport. Those under 16 must also apply for their passport in person when applying for the first time and when renewing their passports.

5. How can you keep your passport safe while traveling?

It’s recommended that you only carry your passport when you need it. In all other cases, it should be locked away. When you are carrying your passport, it is a good idea to use a passport cover, especially one that has RFID shielding to prevent scanning.

You should also be sure to make your passport difficult to reach when carrying it. Keep it in an internal zipped pocket of your purse, in a money belt, or deep down in the bottom of your travel bag. Make sure not to leave your passport in your luggage or another bag that could be easily taken or lost.

6. What to do if your passport is lost or stolen?

If you lose your passport or suspect it was stolen, it should be reported according to the instructions from travel.state.gov. Once a passport is reported lost or stolen, it is invalid and cannot be used for travel, and the passport holder must apply for their new passport in person.

If your passport is lost or stolen when traveling internationally, you should follow these steps.

7. Where can you find out more about passports?

For more information on forms, fees, and wait times visit travel.state.gov. There you can also find more frequently asked passport questions and the most up-to-date passport information.