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When Do You Need a Passport?

When it comes to planning a trip, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  So, when do you need a passport?  Most trips outside of the United States will require one, unless your itinerary fits into one of the following exceptions:

  • Closed-loop cruises, cruises that begin and end at the same US port. For these cruises, a birth certificate and driver’s license will suffice, though it’s better to have a passport in case you need to fly back home for an emergency or to another port if you miss the boat.
  • Land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. For these trips, you can use either a traditional passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (assuming you live in one of the handful of states that offer them), a NEXUS card, FAST card or a SENTRI card.
  • If you are a NEXUS cardholder, you can travel by air to certain Canadian airports with only a NEXUS card. Eligible airports are listed here.

If the trip you’re planning doesn’t meet one of the qualifications listed above, you need a passport. Additionally, if you frequently travel abroad or have close friends, family and/or business contacts living abroad, you should maintain a valid passport.

When to Apply

If you know you need a passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible.  If you don’t want to pay extra for expedited processing, allow more than six weeks for new passport to arrive. If you use the Department of State’s expedited processing option, expect to wait three weeks.

If your passport is expiring in the next nine months, be aware that many countries require you to have six months of validity left on your passport to clear customs, no matter short your intended stay is. Time your renewal application accordingly.

If you are traveling in two weeks or less, you can either make an appointment at one of the 24 regional passport agency offices, or use a private company like RushMyPassport. We make it easy to get your passport delivered quickly by providing hands-on help with the application and then personally delivering it to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours. Contact us for help getting a passport or a passport renewal today!

 

Passport Photos: Where to Get Them

No matter how camera-shy you are, if you want a US passport, you’ll need to smile and say cheese first. There are several different places you can go to get passport photos made, or you can do it yourself.  Here are some of the different options available, as well as the pros and cons of each:

Drug Stores

Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite-Aid and most other drug store chains offer passport photo services.  The cost is usually around $7-8 for either one or two photos. Retakes are extra.

The Pro’s: Ideally, the photographer has been trained and is aware of all the special requirements for passport photos.  Plus, drug stores provide instant gratification, since your photos are ready in just a few minutes.

The Cons: This option is more expensive than doing it yourself, retakes cost extra and the quality of the pictures can vary.  Babies and toddlers can require multiple retakes to get pictures that comply with US Passport Agency regulations, and the charges can add up.

Post Office

Many post offices across the country are also US Passport Acceptance facilities and some of them offer passport photo services.  You can look up the location nearest you here.

Pros: Post office employees should be familiar with acceptance requirements for passport photos. Also, you can get your photo taken and turn in your application at the same time, so you’ll save a trip.

Cons: At $15.00, the fee is more expensive than going to a drugstore. Also, you may be required to make an appointment.

Professional Photographers

Some professional photography studios offer passport photo services.

Pros: You’ll probably get better, more attractive passport photos, since the person on the other end of the camera is a professional, full-time photographer. For infants and small children, professional photographers might get better results because they have extensive practice coaxing good pictures out of little kids. Some photographers offer “Executive passport photo services,” which means they’ll come to you for a hefty fee.

Cons: Fees vary by studio, but expect it to cost a good deal more than the post office. (more…)

Passport Offices Open For Annual “Passport Day in the USA”

This Saturday, March 28th,  passport offices around the country will celebrate “Passport Day in USA.” During this event, many Passport Acceptance Facilities will be open to accept passport applications, answer questions and provide information about the passport application process. All Department of State Regional Passport Agencies will also be open.

“Passport Day in the USA” is the only day of the year when the general public will be allowed to submit passport applications directly to a Regional Passport Agency without first making an appointment and paying an additional expediting fee.

This event is especially important this year, as the regulations governing travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean are changing effective June 1st. Currently, passengers traveling to these countries by plane must have a US passport, but passengers traveling by land or by sea can use a driver’s license and birth certificate. After June 1st, land and sea passengers will also need passports.

Since the rules are changing, it could take longer than usual to get a passport as the deadline approaches.  The last time the rules changed, passport offices were swamped with applications and wait times shot up dramatically. So, if you think you are going to be traveling this year, it’s a good idea to head down to your local passport office and apply for a passport.

To look up the nearest participating passport office and its hours of operation, visit the Department of State’s website.  However, don’t expect to actually get your passport on Passport Day in the USA. You’ll still have to wait at least 4 weeks!

If you need a passport more quickly, consider using a private passport expediting company to submit your passport application.

A private passport expediter will deliver your passport application directly to the US Passport Agency for processing,  so you won’t get caught in a “traffic jam” of passport applications.  Plus, expediters offer processing times that can be as fast as 24 hours!

Expedite your passport today and see how easy it is to get ready to travel!

How To Get a Passport Quickly Without a Birth Certificate

It’s important to keep a copy of your birth certificate around, just in case. However, it’s also one of the easiest documents to lose since you don’t need it very often.  Your desk can get shuffled around, it can get lost during a move…and unless you double-check its whereabouts periodically, you’ll have no idea that it’s lost until you actually need it.

If you need a passport quick, not being able to find your birth certificate can be a significant roadblock. However, there are ways to get a passport quickly even if you don’t have your birth certificate available.

Do You Need a Birth Certificate to Get a Passport?

Maybe not. If you are eligible to renew your passport by mail, your old passport is all you’ll need.

How Can You Get a Birth Certificate Quickly?

The most straightforward way to get a birth certificate quickly is simply to go down to the Office of Vital Statistics where you were born. However, if you’ve moved from that location, this is probably not an option for you. (more…)

What Are the Requirements for US Passport Photos?

Before you go in to have passport photos taken, it’s a good idea to be aware of the US Passport Agency’s requirements for passport photos. If your photos don’t measure up, your passport application could be rejected. To make sure you get your passport in a timely manner, review the rules below before you strike a pose for the camera: (more…)