Get That Passport

The rules are changing and if you don’t have one already, you’re going to need a passport to travel beyond the United States. The State Department is already swamped with applications, so you don’t want to wait for the last minute.

The plan is to require a passport for all travel outside the 50 United States and U.S. territories by Jan. 1, 2008. Or maybe later. It’s not clear.

For your reference, the U.S. territories are Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.) And, yes, I had to look them up. (I’d never even heard of Swains Island, which actually looks kind of cool.)

Never mind. It’s not enough. There are other places that you must go, and you’ll need a passport to do it. Yes, even Canada and Mexico.  Yes, even on a cruise or a ferry.

So, if you don’t have a passport this is what you need to do:

  • Fill out this form and print it out.
  • Go to a AAA office, a drugstore with photo processing or a photo shop and get two passport pictures.
  • Go to this page to find out where you can apply for a passport.
  • Bring the completed form, your certified birth certificate, photo identification and the two passport pictures to that location. Oh, and a credit card or a check for $97 made out to the U.S. Department of State.  (I know. I know. But it’s good for 10 years. That’s $9.70 a year.)
  • Wait. It usually takes eight weeks to arrive and with the current crush that’s up to 10 weeks.

Have you had a valid passport in the past 15 years? Then it’s even easier because you can get a new one by mail. You got more questions? You can get answers here.

I can think of three excellent reasons to take care of this now.

  • First, you’re going to hear about some great last-minute bargain on an overseas trip (maybe from this very blog) and you won’t be able to go or you’ll have to pay the expedited processing fee for a passport.
  • Second, the expedited processing fee is $60 – and now it may take four weeks instead of two weeks.
  • This isn’t going to get better soon. As Jan. 1, 2008 approaches, the passport office will be swamped and the wait will get even longer.

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