Sep 10, 201210:33 AMTravel
The Best of the World Brought to You Courtesy of Jill Gleeson and Jason Holland
Those Persnickity Passports
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Passports: we answer some of your questions.
When preparing for international travel, one of the most important necessary requirements is to first obtain and hold a valid passport. To many, the process seems quite daunting. We will answer some of the most common questions and concerns including questions such as: What is a passport/visa/passport card? How long should I expect the process to take? How much does it cost? Where can I go to get a passport? Who in my family needs to have a passport?
According to dictionary.com a passport is "an official document issued by the government of a country to one of its citizens... authorizing travel to foreign countries and authenticating the bearer's identity, citizenship, right to protection while abroad,and right to reenter his or her native country".
There are two types of passport documents in the United States: a passport book and a passport card.
A passport card is smaller, easier to transport and costs less to obtain. A passport card can be used to enter the United States from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda from sea ports-of-entry and land border crossings. The passport card cannot be used for international air travel. For international air travel, you must obtain a passport book.
In certain cases a visa may be required to visit a particular country. A visa is "an endorsement made by an authorized representative of one country upon a passport issued by another, permitting the passport holder entry into or transit through the country making the endorsement." - Dictionary.com
All persons traveling internationally must obtain a passport, including children (minors under 18) and newborns. In order for a minor to obtain a passport, his or her parents will be required to present official documentation of their relationship to the minor and evidence of their own U.S. Citizenship.
Passports and passport cards are valid for a full 10 years, however, many countries now stipulate that in order to be allowed entry, your passport must be valid for at least an additional 6 months following the planned time of stay in that country.
If your appearance has changed dramatically due to events such as surgery, trauma, significant weight loss/gain, facial tattoos and piercings or new gender identity you will need to get a new passport even if the current one has not expired. If you are not recognized at the border you will not be allowed to pass. Growing facial hair and coloring your hair are not considered significant changes and do not require getting a new passport.
Are you planning an international trip in a few months and need to get a passport for yourself and your family? Be sure to allow enough time to receive yours. Not only do you need to collect the necessary papers and evidence, but with routine processing it can take from 4-10 weeks to receive your passport. Expedited service is available for an additional cost which can reduce the time frame to 2-3 weeks and in some cases even less time. Expedited passport service is recommended by the Department of State for any travel within 10 weeks of departure. When expediting your passport you may be required to provide printed proof of your upcoming travel such as an itinerary with your name or proof of your visa application for travel within 4 weeks.
Be sure to keep your passport book valid. If your previous passport was issued more than 15 years ago you will have to apply for a passport as a new applicant and pay the additional cost.