The passport is your official identification as a citizen of a particular country. U.S. passports are issued by the Department of State and are good for a period of 10 years if issued at age 16 or older (5 years if issued at 15 or under). You must have a valid passport with you to show border and customs authorities when you enter or leave the U.S., when you cross most other national borders, and on all occasions that require official verification of your citizenship.
Keep your passport in a safe but accessible place. Although losing a passport while you are overseas is not the end of the world (although it may seem like it), the procedures for obtaining a new one are complicated and often extremely time-consuming. Before leaving the U.S., make two copies of your passport. Keep one copy with you but separate from the actual passport, and leave the other copy with your family.
U.S. passports are issued at any office of the U.S. Passport Agency and through one of the several thousand federal or state courts or U.S. post offices authorized to accept passport applications. Information about obtaining a U.S. passport as well as a downloadable passport application can also be found on the Department of State website.
You must apply for your passport in person unless you are renewing an expired passport. Note that renewing an expired passport can be done by mail only if you were at least 16 years old when the passport you are renewing was issued.
When applying for a passport for the first time, you will need the following items:
- Proof of citizenship—a naturalization certificate if you are a naturalized citizen or a birth certificate if you are a citizen by birth. Birth certificates must be official, i.e., bearing the seal of the state in which you were born; a hospital certificate is not an official document and submitting one will delay the processing of your passport application. Applications for official birth certificates can be obtained from the local post office.
- Two identical color photographs (2" square on white background) taken within six months of the date of your application. You can get a passport photo at a number of photo shops in Princeton and at CVS.
- Proof of your identity, such as a current driver’s license with your signature and photograph.
- Payment. Passport fees are $110 (application fee) plus a $25 execution fee, if you are applying or renewing in person at an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency (fees are $110 if you renew your passport by mail). For further information on renewing or obtaining a passport, please consult the U.S. State Department passport website at www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. Allow at least six weeks for processing. You can request expedited service(two-week delivery) by paying an additional $60.
Some countries require that your U.S. passport be valid six months or longer beyond the dates of your trip. Please check with the embassy or nearest consulate of the country that you plan to visit for their requirements. If you already have a U.S. passport but it will expire before you complete your time abroad, you must apply for a new passport before you leave the U.S.
Loss or theft of a valid passport while in the U.S. should be reported immediately to Passport Services and directions and requirements for completing the Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport, Form DS-64 should be followed. If the loss occurs while abroad, immediately notify the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. Consult the list of websites of U.S. embassies and/or consulates abroad to find the closest one. Theft of a passport should also be reported to local police authorities.