Everything is in place for an amazing experience. Now, it’s time to start preparing.
And what’s the first thing that pops up in every “what you need to study abroad” search?
As it does to many students preparing to travel abroad, the word ‘passport’ can create a great deal of anxiety and stress. However, while understandable, doing a little homework on the front end will arm you with the knowledge you need to apply for your passport with confidence.
With that in mind, let’s begin by reviewing a few passport essentials.
What is a passport?
It’s a government-issued document (booklet) that confirms your United States citizenship and allows you to travel internationally and legally enter and exit the country.
Do I need a “passport book” or a “passport card?”
Students traveling abroad need a passport book, as the book allows individuals to travel internationally by air, land or sea, while a passport card doesn’t allow for international air travel.
How much does a passport book cost?
If you’re over 16 years old applying for your first passport, the cost for a passport book is $165 (consisting of a $130 application fee & $35 acceptance fee).
What types of payments are accepted?
When submitting your passport application, you may pay the fee(s) via personal check, certified check, cashier’s check or money order. On the other hand, credit cards, debit cards and cash are not accepted forms of payment.
How to Apply for Your Passport
While passport applications are available on the State Department website, first-time applicants are required to apply in person at one of the over 7,400 official passport acceptance facilities. To find the acceptance facility closest to you, visit the State Department’s facility search page. However, before applying in person, you’ll need to complete an online passport application.
1. Complete Application Form DS-11 (Application for a U.S. Passport)
To complete the standard Application for a U.S. Passport, Form DS-11, you may do so by either using the PDF Form Filler or downloading and completing the PDF version.
If you currently have a passport and simply need to renew, you will complete Form DS-82.
If you’ve lost your passport, you will need to report it online.
Information on how to make changes to a current passport, including a name change or information error, can be found online.
2. Acquire Passport-Ready Photo of Yourself
After completing your application, the next step is finding a legal passport photo. Your photo can be taken by a friend or family member or at an approved acceptance facility such as a post office, library or local government office. To determine the acceptance facility closest to you and confirm it offers photo services, visit the acceptance facility search page.
It’s important to note that photo service fees may differ from one acceptance facility to another. However, all passport photos must adhere to the requirements outlined below:
- Size: 2 inches x 2 inches (head size between 1 & 1 ⅜ inches)
- Paper: Matte or glossy print
- Quality: Color photo
- Image: No selfies & no filters
If you’re unsure whether your photo meets the requirements, the State Department offers a free online passport “photo tool” to help.
3. Prepare Your Proof of United States Citizenship
To confirm citizenship, you must provide an accepted form of primary citizenship evidence. If you were born in the United States, you will need to provide a birth certificate.
If you were born outside the United States, you will need to submit either a certificate of citizenship, a certificate of naturalization or a consular report of birth abroad. Passport applicants unable to provide primary proof of citizenship must provide an accepted form of secondary citizenship, which is outlined online.
4. Bring a Physical Government-Issued Photo ID and a Black & White Photo-Copy
When submitting your completed application in person, you will need to present both an accepted form of a physical government-issued photo ID and a black & white photo-copy (printed on an 8.5 x 11-inch white paper). The most commonly used primary photo ID is an in-state driver’s license with a photo.
If for any reason you cannot provide one of the primary ID options, you must submit two secondary forms of accepted IDs. Commonly used secondary IDs include social security cards, voter registration cards, official student IDs and different types of driver’s licenses.
5. FIRST-TIME APPLICANTS: Take Your Application Materials to a Passport Acceptance Facility
To find the facility closest to you, visit the State Department’s acceptance facility search page.
With the potential for adjusted hours of operation amid the pandemic, it’s recommended to contact the acceptance facility ahead of time to confirm availability. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to apply at the United States Post Office (USPS), you can make an appointment online by visiting USPS.com.
How long will it take to receive my passport book?
General application processing takes 8-11 weeks, plus shipping and delivery time. However, for an additional $60 an applicant can request expedited processing which reduces processing time from 8-11 weeks to 5-7 weeks. For either processing option, you may add 1-2 day shipping for an additional $17.56.
Is it possible to expedite my passport and receive it faster?
Depending upon when and why you’ll be traveling abroad, it may be possible to receive your passport faster than normal. Visit “Get My Passport Fast” to learn more.
Can I track my passport application online?
Yes! You can check your application status on the Online Passport Status System webpage. Additionally, when reviewing online, you can sign up for automatic email updates.
How will I receive my passport & supporting documentation?
Your passport book will arrive via mail.
What if I have questions?
Representatives at the National Passport Information Center are available Monday-Friday (8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. EST). Additionally, automated passport information is available 24 hours a day. If you have questions, call (877) 487-2778 or (888) 874-7793.
Furthermore, there are a number of helpful passport application videos available online.
For the latest passport information impacted by the pandemic, please check online.
Important Notes for Verto Students
Enrolled Verto students must have a passport that is valid for at least 12 months beyond the end of the program.
Please note that passport application processing may take up to 11 weeks. We encourage you to acquire or renew your passport ASAP so that you can attend your Verto program.
Please have your passport ready to go at least 4 months before your program start date so that we can begin your pre-departure preparations, including your student visa application for the semesters that require it. If you are attending a semester that does not require a student visa, please have your passport ready 3 months before your departure.
If you are an enrolled Verto student and need support with acquiring your passport, reach out to your Student Onboarding Advisor.
We can’t wait to travel the world with you!
Verto Education Content Contributor