We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Passport

A woman holds a passport
Jsnow my wolrd/Shutterstock.com

Are you traveling internationally for the first time this year? If you haven’t already begun the process of getting a passport, now’s the time. Your passport is essential for international travel, and it can take a while to complete the process. Here’s how to apply for one and how to travel smart once you get it.

Applying for a Passport

A woman applies for a passport or visa

It can take eight weeks or longer to receive your passport after applying for it. Be sure to start early so you have plenty of time to get the document before your trip.

To be eligible for a U.S. passport, you must be a U.S. citizen. You will also need to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and proof of identity, such as a driver’s license or government-issued ID.

You will also be required to have passport photos before your passport application can be completed. These can be taken at a variety of locations including post offices, libraries, and local government offices. They can sometimes be taken at the same location where you are receiving your passport if you are doing it in person, but you’ll need to check ahead of time to ensure that you don’t need to take them separately.

You can apply for a passport online, through the mail, or in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility. Complete the appropriate application form, either online or on paper, and provide all the required information and documentation.

Passports require a fee to process, which will vary between about $60 and over $200 depending on the type of passport you are getting, if you are applying for a child, and if you need expedited services.

After filling out the application, submitting your photos, and paying the fee, you’ll have to sit tight until your application can be processed and approved. Your passport should arrive in the mail or be available for pickup within four to 12 weeks.

Using a Passport

A man uses his passport while traveling
LightField Studios/Shutterstock.com

Your passport allows you to travel internationally and serves as proof of who you are and where you’re from. When you enter or exit a foreign country, you will need to present your passport to border control officials. In some countries, you may be asked to present your passport while checking into a hotel or Airbnb.

When using a passport to verify your identity, you must present the original document. Copies or photos will not be accepted as proof, especially when traveling through airports or across borders.

While passing through the border control of a foreign country, you will get a stamp in your passport. These are fun to collect and serve as mementos of where you have been. However, it’s important to note that most countries require one or two fully blank pages to provide a stamp. This won’t be an issue if you don’t travel much, but always check to make sure you have enough blank pages in your passport before you book a trip.

Tips for Traveling With Your Passport

A woman in an airport

Because your passport is so valuable, it is essential that you keep it safe while traveling. You’ll want to avoid losing it somewhere and keep it safe from pickpocketers.

Many people choose to keep their passports in a special holder. Not only will this keep it safe from damage, but it can also be handy to help you carry other items like cash and credit cards in one place.

Passport and Vaccine Card Holder Combo

Keep your passport and COVID vaccine card safe in the same place.

Always carry your passport in a secure and easily accessible place, such as a neck pouch or money belt. Avoid leaving it in a hotel room or in a visible place in your car.

RFID Blocking Travel Wallet

A good option for traveling in touristy areas.

If you know that you won’t need your passport for one day while sightseeing and your hotel has a secure location, like a safe, it may be appropriate to leave it at home. Do whatever makes you feel the most secure.

SURE LOCK TSA Compatible Travel Luggage Locks

It's always smart to lock your suitcase when leaving it in your hotel.

Always make several copies of your passport before your trip. Keep one at home, one in your suitcase, and one with you. While these copies can’t be used to help you travel, the information on them will make it easier to reapply for a passport if yours is stolen in a foreign country.

Be sure to keep track of your passport every moment until you reach your home airport. You should always have it handy when taking an airplane, train, or bus in a different country.

A passport is the most essential item when it comes to traveling internationally. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for one, using it, and keeping it safe while traveling.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?