Everything You Need To Know About US Passports

Any plans of traveling beyond the borders of the United States? If you do, then don’t forget to procure yourself a valid passport prior to booking that next flight to Rome. Even if Mexico or Canada is just a border away, you still need a passport to cross the other side. Gone were the days when a copy of your original birth certificate will suffice. Americans use the only universally accepted form of identification, especially when travelling abroad – a United States Passport.

Governments have used some form of passports for over a hundred years. A traveler can be recognized as a citizen or a national with a right to protection in foreign lands and a right to go back to his home country through documents like passports, letters of transit and others. Although passports were not adopted as the official form of identification for international travelers before the 19th and 20th centuries, they were utilized since then.

In the United States, US citizens apply a passport from the State Department and its 14 passport agencies in major cities, clerks of federal and certain state courts, certain designated post offices and US consular authorities abroad. The passport is required for both departure and re-entry to the United States. For adults, it is valid for 10 years, while for children under 18, it is only valid for 5 since their appearances change more often.

To prevent counterfeiters and forgers, US passports are periodically upgraded to incorporate new technologies in its production such as advanced printing technology, special inks and security thread in the paper. A new passport was introduced in 2006 known as the e-passport or the RFID (radio frequency identification) passport. It has a computer chip embedded in the back cover that contains your biographical information and a digital copy of your photograph, which is used with facial recognition technology.

Applying for a United States passport for the first time needs a physical appearance. A physical appearance is also required for minor children. There are 2 steps to apply: (1) Complete application Form DS-11, and (2) Present proof of US citizenship (previous US passport, certified birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship).

First time travellers experience the excitement of going overseas. It may take a little time and money to apply for a passport, but the freedom you’ll get to travel abroad is all worth it.

Travel Document Systems, Inc. is the leading travel agency for visas and US passports. For nearly 30 years we have served travel professionals, tour operators, cruise lines, as well as corporate and individual international travelers. TDS specializes in travel that involves visas for more than one country.

Dean N. Orbell 
Travel Document Systems, Inc