At first glance, getting a passport may seem a bit overwhelming. For starters, if you ask most anyone how to get a passport they will either tell you they don’t know or that they got theirs years ago and don’t remember exactly what you need to do – other than fill out an application.
This past week, Stephanie and I made it our goal to get the entire family passports. I already had mine. Stephanie’s was long expired and our two girls have never been issued one. We learned that it is really not that difficult, but it takes time and is – unfortunately – several hundred bucks.
If you just need to renew a passport book/card, the process is quite simple.
Here are the steps if you’re starting from scratch:
Step 1. Locate Birth Certificate(s).
That means a certified copy of each person’s birth certificate. You will need to send in a copy with the passport application. Birth certificates can be easily obtained from your State’s Vital Records Office. No State’s Vital Records office can access the vital records of another State. If you or your child was born in a different State, you may request birth certificates by mail.
Step 2. Fill Out The Application (Form DS-11).
The easiest and neatest way to fill out the passport application is to do it online and then print it. The questions are straightforward and quick to fill in.
Step 3. Obtain Passport Photos (or take them yourself).
Each applicant needs to have two photos, proportioned correctly and cut to 2×2 inches. Your have three options for photos:
- Go to Walgreens, CVS, or another drugstore (~$8).
- Go to a Passport Acceptance Facility (~$15).
- Take and edit the photos yourself.
If you take your own pictures (like we did), you don’t have to pay anyone. Plus, you can retake the photos as you many times as you like until you get a good shot. The most difficult part for us was convincing our girls to look straight ahead while standing still up against a white background.
Next, you will need to crop the pictures into 2×2-inch images – keeping in mind the face needs to adhere to the dimensions given in the example of the passport application.
Step 4. Drive to a Passport Acceptance Facility.
The hard part is over (sorta). There are a handful of offices that will accept passport applications. The common ones include certain United States Post Offices and State Offices. Some facilities require appointments. Some are walk-ins. We actually took the whole family to a location that told us we needed to make an appointment. Fortunately, there was another location nearby that allow us to walk-in and submit our applications. Check the Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page to find out your best facility option.
Step 5. Pay Your Money.
Be sure to check with your facility about what form of payment they accept. We were required to bring a money order. Here is a breakdown of the prices. Also note: there is also an additional $25 Execution Fee paid separately for each application.
From pictures to payment, the process took us almost an entire day. It was a bit exhausting, but worth it. There are various factors like parental guardianship, serious medical problems, and other special circumstances that may slightly change the passport application process but these steps should give anyone a solid starting point.
Does everyone in your family have a passport? Do you have any tips for make this process easier?