Whether for business, a honeymoon or family emergency, many of us will find ourselves making travel plans that require we cross the U.S. border. A valid U.S. passport is required to travel even as close as Mexico and Canada. The idea of obtaining a passport may seem like a daunting one, but the process can be quite simple if you are well-informed of what is required of you.
There are dozens of passport office locations within the Houston area where you can painlessly apply for a passport, but be sure you have familiarized yourself with the information below.
1. Do I Need a Passport?
If you are an American citizen (regardless of age) who plans to travel internationally, you will need a passport in order to exit and re-enter the United States. This includes travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
2. Do I have to apply in person?
Yes, you have to apply in person if:
- You are a first-time applicant
- You are under age 16
- Your previous passport was issued when you were under 16
- Your passport was lost or stolen
- Your name has been changed since your previous passport was issued
3. Where do I go to apply for a passport?
Applications for U.S. passports can be obtained at over 25 locations in Harris County alone. Many of these authorized stations are post offices. For a complete directory of passport offices, visit the U.S. Department of State. You may also find applications at the city clerk's office or through travel agencies.
4. Do I need to show any documentation?
Applicants should provide a Social Security number, photo identification and proof of birth. These can be in either of the following forms:
- Previous U.S. passport
- Certified U.S. birth certificate
- Naturalization certificate
5. How much does a passport cost?
For an adult passport book and card (card not valid for international air travel), the fee is $165. For an adult passport book without the card, the fee is $135. There are several other fee amounts depending on your specific circumstance.
6. How forms of payment are acceptable?
- Credit card (VISA MasterCard, American Express, Discover) and debit/check cards
- Check (personal, certified, cashiers, travelers) payable to "Department of State"
- Money orders (U.S. postal, international, currency exchanges) and bank drafts payable to "Department of State"
- Cash (only at some facilities)
7. Can I use my own photo?
It is highly recommended that you use a passport photo service, but if you prefer to submit your own photo, it must be:
- In color
- Printed on photo paper
- 2" x 2"
- Cropped so that the head is 1" to 1 3/8" from chin to head
- Taken within the last 6 months
- Taken in front of a white or off-white solid background
- Taken directly facing the camera
- Taken with a neutral face with both eyes open and visible
- Taken in clothing you normally wear
8. When will I receive my passport?
Approximately 4 to 6 weeks from the time the receipt of your application. Applications can be tracked online 5 to 7 days after receipt.
9. I need to travel sooner than that. Can I rush the process?
Yes, there is a way to receive your passport within 2 to 3 weeks of application, but you will need to pay an additional $60 plus the overnight fees. When mailing your application form, write the word "EXPEDITE" as clearly as possible on the outside of the envelope.
10. How long is my passport valid?
If your passport was issued when you were over 16, it will be valid for 10 years. If you were under 16, your passport will be valid for 5 years. It is best to renew your passport 9 months before it will expire. Some airlines will require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months past your date of travel.
11. My passport is expired. Can I renew it by mail?
Yes, you may mail in your renewal form if the expired passport:
- Is undamaged
- Was issued when you were age 16 or older
- Was issued in the last 15 years
- Was issued in your current name or you have legal documents proving name change
12. I either misplaced my passport or someone stole it. What do I do?
Report the passport lost or stolen by calling 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 or completing Form DS-64 online or by mailing it to:
U.S. Department of State
Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section
1111 19th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
13. I still need more information.
Visit this site.