Passport Cards

The US Passport card can be very useful for many travelers. The purpose of the passport card over the passport book is the convenience. Instead of having to carry about the large book, you can simply carry this card in a wallet or purse. There are a few restrictions however – it cannot be used for international traveling via any sort of air flight. It can only be used with other modes of transportation. It also can only be used when you are coming back from Canada, Mexico, the Bermuda, of the Caribbean. Travel by sea to any of the aforementioned countries is acceptable use of the passport card and would not require a passport book.

All US Citizens can apply for a passport card. They are very inexpensive and have a number of very good security features in them. Firstly, the cards are equipped with state-of-the-art RFID chips. These chips however do not contain any personal information on them – they simply provide an identification that is transmitted to a nearby US border facility so that any information can be pulled prior to you crossing the border. This is a way that you can feel safe knowing that terrorists or dangerous criminals will not be crossing the border and can be apprehended quickly and safely. For your security against 3rd party data hackers, each card is provided with an anti-RFID slip that prevents unauthorized reading or tracking of the card at all.

This type of card went into production July 14, 2008 and so far over 2.7 million cards are in circulation.

The cost for a first time cardholder is $55 for adults and $40 for minors under the age of 16. For renewal fees, it will cost only $30.

The card was originally designed for border-states who had many residents crossing the border frequently and they requested a cheaper, faster, easier way to present their ID and cross the border. The card cannot be used for air flight because it would undermine the increased efforts to provide air security checks in this post-9/11 world. TSA regulations allow for this card as an acceptable form of ID to travel, although you need your passport book if you travel internationally regardless.

Application for the passport card is done in the same manner as applying for the passport book. Begin by filling out the form number DS-11. This is the actual application for the US Passport, but can also be used for the card. It can be completed in person or online. Ensure that you provide your social security number. If you do not include it, there will be a possibility that your request will be delayed and even denied altogether. Once the DS-11 form has been filled out, you will have to provide evidence that you are a citizen of the United States before the card will be sent out.

There is some controversy over the RFID chip that is contained in the US Passport cards. According to the US Immigrations office, the card is very safe and contains no personal information. An identification number is the only thing that is transmitted and then used to find your information via the US internal database. No outside sources have access to your personal history and information.


Passport Name Change

Changing your name on your passport is a necessary step if you have changed your name any time recently. If you plan to go abroad, it is very important to remember the fact that if you have had a name change in the recent past, but your passport still uses the old name; you could very possibly run into some serious trouble.

Also, it is very important to ensure that you do this in a timely manner in case you must leave the country for a family emergency, or a business trip. If left unchanged from the prior name, it may be close to impossible to reach the destination that you need to get to.

There are three different scenarios that you may have come into that would be cause for a need to change your name on your passport.

The first scenario is if you received your passport less than a year ago and since then you have had your name changed legally due to a court order or you got married. If this is the case, then you should mail in your current valid US Passport, the (DS-5504) form, which is the actual application for any sort of changes to a passport whether it be a name change or some form of data correction or a limited passport book used for replacement. You will also need the original or certified copy of your marriage license or certificate or the government issued document that shows evidence of any court order with a legal name change under either state or federal law. It may be required that you submit one recent color photo.

The great thing about a simple name change within the last year is that is free of charge unless you require the expedited service. Please use a traceable form of mailing and use a mailing packaging that is of suitable size and provides adequate protection for the documents inside.

When it comes to the photo requirements, they must be printed on photo quality paper and be 2 x 2 inches, or 51mm x 51mm in size. It must have been taken in the last 6 months taken in plain view without any sort of obscurities that would prevent your identification. You should wear your normal daily clothes along with any needed hearing aids, glasses etc. Hats are not permissible unless it is for religious purposes. Regardless though, the entire face must be visible and there may be no shadows casted on top of your face, for whatever reason.

The second scenario is if your passport was issued more than 1 year ago and since then you have had your name changed legally due to a court order or you got married. If this is the case, then you must mail in your current valid US Passport, the completed form (DS-82 as opposed to DS-5504) which is the actual application for a passport. You should NOT use DS-5504. You will still need the original or certified copy of your marriage license or certificate or the government issued document that shows evidence of any court order with a legal name change under either state or federal law. It may be required that you submit one recent color photo if you need to update the photo on file.

You are for the most part applying for a brand new passport. Due to the fact that you are filling out for DS-82, you must be pay the renewal fee involved with getting a new passport which is $140 for the passport and card, $110 for just the passport book, and $30 for just the passport card. Again, please ensure that you use a traceable form of delivery.


Renew an Expired Passport

If your passport is expired, it is practically the same process as applying for your first passport with only a few changes in steps.

The easiest way is by mail. If your current passport is not damaged and can be sent with your application, you were 16 years or older when the prior one was granted and the passport was issued in the last 15 years and in your current legal name (provide documents if you changed your name), then mailing is the best way. If you cannot provide the above documents, then you must get your expired passport renewed in person.

The correct form to fill out would be form DS-82. Form DS-82 is the renewal form and it can be sent by mail as long as you are currently in the United States. Please note that there will be delays in processing if any of the following have occurred: Your most recent passport has been mutilated in any way, altered, or damaged, the envelope that you used was not of adequate size to hold all documents required, if you are behind on child support payments, and the use of a non-standard form of traceable delivery.

If you have to apply in person, then you must fill out for DS-11. Ensure that you provide your social security number with this form. If you do not include it, there will be a possibility that your request will be delayed and even denied altogether. Once the DS-11 form has been filled out, you will have to provide evidence that you are a citizen of the United States before the renewed passport or card will be sent out. This will include previously used passports, a birth certificate, a birth certificate from another country, naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship and pay the fee of $95. That fee is for the passport book and passport card. If you just want the passport or the card it will be $80 and $15.

The normal processing times for standard delivery are roughly 5-7 days long and it can be tracked online also at the website. They are sent out via 1st class mail, and unfortunately cannot be sent out with overnight delivery so prepare just in case you need the passport urgently. If you do need it urgently, there are other options. As long as you are eligible, you can schedule an appointment at a one of the 24 regional passport agencies within the United States. Of course, if any of the aforementioned delays are present, the time it will take will increase.

Payments accepted are normal Credit Cards, checks, Money orders/Cashier’s checks, bank drafts and debit cards. Some facilities do accept cash payments, but ensure that you have a backup just in case. No cash payment through the mail. If the passport is for a minor, the photo must be a 2×2 that was taken in the last 6 months and both parents either must be present during the passport issuing, or the second parent must have a notarized document signed that states that they approve the passport for their child along with the DS-82 signed form.


Renewing My Passport

Renewing your passport is a relatively straightforward process that is much easier than applying for your first passport. For obvious reasons, you aren’t going to be able to use the same passport for your entire life, this would pose a huge security threat to anybody traveling abroad, and the fact of the matter is that renewing it is a simple process that should stir up any sort of reservations for the people that have to do it. This is especially true if you are turning 18, where it is expected of you to renew your passport, just like your driver’s license. This is because people under 18 have their own special type of passport, and when you turn 18 you are no longer eligible to use it, so it is then time to graduate to the full normal passport everyone else uses.

It is possible, and easiest to renew by mail if your current passport is not damaged and can be sent with your application, was issued when you were 16 years or older, issued in the last 15 years and in your current legal name (provide documents if you changed your name).If you cannot provide the above documents, then you must get your passport renewed in person.

The correct form to fill out would be form DS-82. Form DS-82 is the renewal form and it can be sent by mail as long as you are currently in the United States. Please note that there will be delays in processing if any of the following have occurred: Your most recent passport has been mutilated in any way, altered, or damaged, the envelope that you used was not of adequate size to hold all documents required, if you are behind on child support payments, and the use of a non-standard form of traceable delivery.

If you have to apply in person, then you must fill out for DS-11. Ensure that you provide your social security number with this form. If you do not include it, there will be a possibility that your request will be delayed and even denied altogether. Once the DS-11 form has been filled out, you will have to provide evidence that you are a citizen of the United States before the renewed passport or card will be sent out. This will include previously used passports, a birth certificate, a birth certificate from another country, naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship. The fee itself is $95 for the passport book and passport card. If you just want the passport or the card it will be $80 or $15 respectively.

Payments accepted are Credit Cards, checks, Money orders/Cashier’s checks, bank drafts and debit cards. Some facilities accept cash payments, but ensure that you have a backup just in case. No cash payment through the mail. Remember to take into consideration that if you are paying by mail, it could be a while until they get your payment- but once they do they are generally pretty quick about it.

The normal processing times for standard delivery are roughly 5-7 days long and it can be tracked online also at the website. They are sent out via 1st class mail, and unfortunately cannot be sent out with overnight delivery so prepare just in case you need the passport urgently. If you do need it urgently, there are other options. As long as you are eligible, you can schedule an appointment at a one of the 24 regional passport agencies within the United States. Of course, if any of the aforementioned delays are present, the time it will take will increase.


Passport Fees

You want to travel abroad. Maybe your company is sending you to close out a deal overseas; maybe you want to do some sightseeing on a personal vacation; or perhaps you want to take the family on a little adventure to Canada to see the unspoiled wildlife, or drive down to Mexico to escape the winter cold.

Whatever your reasons for traveling internationally, you’ve probably started doing a little research on obtaining you U.S. Passport. You’ve looked at what requirements you need to meet, what information you need, and where in your area you can go to apply for a passport. You know what you need to do to go in, fill out your U.S. Passport application, and present the necessary paperwork so you can get out without so much as a mild headache.

What many people don’t know is how much it actually costs to get a U.S. Passport.

When it comes to a standard U.S. Passport (the DS-11 version), the price will depend on which “package” you are getting. If you do not currently have a passport, or are aplying for the very first time, you have a few options.

 Adults Getting A Passport For The First Time

The typical U.S. Passport Book – the one you usually see people presenting at airports to get stamped – are $110 with a first-time processing fee of $25. There is also the option of getting a U.S. Passport Card, which is $30 with a $25 processing fee. The most popular option (in order to have identification backup in case you lose one or the other) is to get both the U.S. Passport Book, as well as the card. This will cost $140 with a one-time processing fee of $25. Most people will tell you that the last option just makes more sense, because you will have two forms of identification while traveling.

 Renewing A Passport

 If you are renewing your U.S. Passport, you won’t have to present as much paperwork (usually, mailing in your old passport with the renewal request will suffice), and you won’t have to pay as much as first-time applicants. To renew your U.S. Passport Book, it costs $110. For the Card, $30. For both the U.S. Passport Book and Card, it will cost $140. The processing fee that applies to first-time applicants is waived in this case.

Children/People Under 16 Years Of Age

 Not everyone who travels is an adult. Students taking trips abroad, and children going on family vacations or visition people internationally also need passports.

For a person 16 years old and younger, the fees for getting a U.S. Passport are slightly less than listed above, but they come with the same options. For someone in this age group, a U.S. Passport Book will cost $80 plus a one-time processing fee of $25. For the card by itself, the cost is $15 plus the $25 fee for processing. As with the listing for adults, there is an option (again, this is the one that’s recommended) for both the U.S. Passport Book and the Card. This will run for $95 plus the $25 processing fee. These charges and fees also apply to minors who are renewing their U.S. Passports.

 Optional Passport Services

 In addition to getting a U.S. Passport, there are other services you can get, and which have very nominal fees attached to them.

Overnight Delivery – This makes certain that once your application has been processed and your U.S. Passport is ready to be shipped, it will be overnighted to your address. The cost for this service is $12.72.

Expedited Service  - A typical U.S. Passport application takes roughly 6-8 weeks to process, once the application leaves your hands. Getting expedited or “rushed” serivce will cut down this waiting time to 2-3 weeks, and is well worth the $60 fee to get your travel plans arranged.

File Search – This is a rarely used service, but if you need to verify a previous U.S. Passport or consular birth in another country, a written request will get you the information you seek. This service costs $150 per request, and will be waived in the case of your U.S. Passport getting lost or stolen.

Adding Pages – If you are a globe-hopping, jetsetting traveler, you might find the pages of your U.S. Passport filling up with stamps from various countries. If you anticipate this happening to you, you can have additional pages included in your passport for $82.

Name Changes/Informational Errors

 You may find that throughout your globetrotting days that your name may legally change due to divorce or marriage, or perhaps getting a degree that adds some extra letters onto your name. Also, it should be noted that even the U.S. Bureau of Cunsular Affairs is not infallible. Sometimes clerical errors do occur when printing one’s name, address, or date of birth on a passport. If any of the situations in this section should occur, you can have your U.S. Passport information updated, free of charge.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge of what it costs to get a U.S. Passport, you should have no problem planning for your next big trip abroad!


Passports for Children

Renewing a child’s passport is a little more complicated than that of a regular passport for anybody over the age of 18. The reason for this stems from child abduction laws. The heightened security is to protect the child since if it was possible to easily obtain a new passport; an abducted child would easily assume a new name and never be found. These laws have made it much safer, but also at the same time a little more time consuming.

Based on the fact that renewal is for the protection of the child, when they need their passport renewed, it must be done with the parent present, in person. It cannot be done online or through the mail for minors under the age of 16. Any child under the age of 16 must have a parental consent form filled in addition.

The first thing that you need to do is fill out the DS-11 from the official website. This is the actual application for the child’s passport and should be completed by hand. You should not sign the application until you have been told that it is ok by an Acceptance Agent when you arrive in person. After that, it is expected of you to have ready your social security number for the child. If you do not include it, there will be a possibility that your requests will be delayed and even denied.

Once the DS-11 form has been completely filled out, you will have to provide evidence that the child is a citizen of the United States. You may use previously issued passports, a birth certificate, a birth certificate from another country, naturalization certificate, adoption decree, a court order that claims custody, a court order that claims guardianship, or a report of a birth abroad.

Unlike an adult passport, a child’s passport cannot use secondary evidence as much a regular adult passport. There are a lot of reasons behind this, but the main one being that since children grow so quickly, it would be a huge inconvenience to those looking at the passport to see a 4 year old photo of an 8 year old. When it comes to the photo, it must be a 2×2 that was taken in the last 6 months. This is very important since children grow so quickly it cannot be an old photo at all.

If the child has a mother and father, both parents either must be present during the passport issuing, or the second parent must have a notarized document signed that states that they approve the passport for their child along with the DS-11 signed form.

If there is one parent that has sole legal custody, there are a lot of different ways that you can claim that you are the single holder of custody of the child. One of the easiest ways is going to be providing your Adoption decree, which should have been given to you when you first legally to custody of him or her. Remember that there are actually other ways too, but since most people are going to have the adoption decree, this is easily the most practical for all people.

The final part is the fee itself. The fee is $95 for the book and card plus the $25 execution/processing fee. If you just want the passport or the card it will be $80 or $15 respectively. Payments accepted are Credit Cards, checks, Money orders/Cashier’s checks, bank drafts and debit cards. Some facilities accept cash payments, but ensure that you have a backup just in case. No cash payment through the mail.


Getting a Passport

The first step involved in getting a passport  is to gather all the necessary items that you need to process the request. The very first thing that you need to do is fill out the form DS-11. This is the actual application for the US Passport and should be completed online or by hand. You won’t be able to sign the application until it is allowed by an Acceptance Agent; you must also tell them your social security number. If you do not include it, there will be a possibility that your requests will be delayed and even denied.

Once the DS-11 form has been completely filled out, you will have to provide evidence that you are a citizen of the United States. This will include previously used passports, a birth certificate, a birth certificate from another country, naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship.

The above are considered the primary evidence that you are eligible. If you do not have these then there are a whole host of other things that you can use as evidence to prove that you are eligible for receiving a passport. Just call ahead and ask what you can use to prove this, and the chances are pretty good that you will have at least one of the listed items that can be used (there are roughly 10). Unfortunately voter’s registration cards, army discharge papers and your social security card are not acceptable forms of identification.

If you are completing your passport in person, you must bring an acceptable form of identification such as a previously used passport, certificate of naturalization, a valid driver’s license, and last but not least a current Government or Military ID.

When arriving, bring a photocopy of the front and back of each ID document that you are providing – It must be using standard 8+1/2 x 11 paper showing both the front and back of each card or document. Ensure that you do not place both the front and back on the same side of the paper. Each card side must be on a separate piece of paper, whether that be a different sheet, or the back-side of one sheet. It is permissible to increase the size of a photocopy, but never to decrease.

If you are disabled and someone is providing your information on your behalf, they must present their ID when they appear also.

Once all the information has been filled out, all copies made, the fee must be paid. The typical fees for a passport are $110 for the application and $25 for the execution. If you wish to also get a card along with the book, expect to pay $140 + $25. For just the card, it is $30 + $25.Renewals are the same prices minus the execution fee of $25.

The normal processing times for standard delivery are roughly 5-7 days long and it can be tracked online also at the website. They are sent out via 1st class mail, and unfortunately cannot be sent out with overnight delivery so prepare just in case you need the passport urgently. If you do need it urgently, there are other options. As long as you are eligible, you can schedule an appointment at a one of the 24 regional passport agencies within the United States.

If you do need the passport urgently, the cost for expedited service is $60, so it would be wise to try and think ahead of time when you need to get your passport for the first time or have it renewed.