A US passport is one of the most important documents an American citizen can possess, especially if he or she plans to travel abroad. Since the inauguration of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a valid passport has been required for all Americans to exit and return to the United States, independent of age. A passport is now required for travel to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean region.
A regular tourist passport book has 24 pages. Inside the front cover is the personal data page. Besides the applicant’s photo, the page contains information such as passport type, passport number, full name, date of birth, sex, place of birth, date of issuance and date of expiration. The applicant’s address is not included in the passport so there is no need to update the document after a move.
The first page of the passport is the signature page. Upon receipt, the person to whom the passport was issued should sign the document. The signature can be either first and last name or full name. The signature page contains a declaration by the Secretary of State of the United States that the bearer should be permitted “to pass without delay or hindrance”.
Pages 2 and 3 contain information about requesting corrections in case of errors and tips for traveling abroad. Pages 4 and 5 provide information concerning important issues that international travelers should be aware of such as security threats, laws, taxes, loss of U.S. citizenship and dual citizenship. Page 6 has important information about your passport such as unlawful use, loss, theft and damage. Page 7 has space for personal data and emergency contact information.
The actual visa pages in a passport book are numbered from 8 to 24. This means that there are only 16 visa pages. Since many visas now take up an entire page and most countries require from 2-4 pages before issuing a visa, the passport book will not last long if you frequently make international trips.
There are a couple of factors that can affect the validity of a passport. One if the age of the applicant and the other is the situation in which the passport is issued.
Regular passports issued to minors age 15 or younger are valid for 5 years. Those issued to adults age 16 or older are valid for 10 years. Emergency passports issued outside the United States to American citizens whose travel document has been lost or stolen have a limited validity. This can range from a few months up to a year.
It is important to understand that many, but not all, countries require a specific number of month’s validity remaining in a passport before they will issue a visa or allow entrance. Most common is a 6 month validity requirement although only 3 months is required for visits countries that are party to the Schengen agreement. Verify the entry and exit requirements for each country you plan to visit in order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Passport processing is done at regional agencies located in several major cities of the United States. Routine processing takes between 4 and 6 weeks. Expedited service takes approximately 2 to 3 weeks. These are estimates and change depending on the demand at the time. Applicants who need passport faster can schedule an appointment to personally submit applications at a regional agency or go through an experienced passport expediting service. Applications processed through either of these methods can be completed as quickly as the same day.
It is always a good idea to start the application process early, especially if you plan to travel during the summer or holidays. The number of applications submitted increases significantly and so does the processing time. Avoid unnecessary complications. Apply for your passport today.
Visit U.S. Passport Service Guide for requirements, instructions and tips for expediting American passports as quickly as the same day.