A few months ago our middle child, Ms. Smart, was voted “Most Likely to Change the World” by her senior class.
She has always been the type of person to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
So … this title was no surprise to us at all.
It was a little surprising though when she came to us and asked if she could go on a mission trip to Guatemala after graduation. I mean… what… doesn’t she not know about all the diseases that are down there? What about all the bombings and senseless killings that are happening all over the world?
She does know about all that. However, just like her senior class saw … she wants to change the world one small step at a time. She wants to do whatever she can for the less fortunate and spread the lord’s gospel in the process.
I’m telling y’all … she is a very special girl.
So after a reasonable amount of time debating health and safety issues …. We decided to let her go on this amazing adventure.
My husband and myself have been out of the country … on our honeymoon. We aren’t world travelers by no means. We went to Playa del Carman and we were only required to carry a copy of our birth certificates.
I had to start from scratch and navigate the process of getting a passport for the very first time. And to be quite honest … it was a lot easier than I had anticipated. ( I seriously almost denied Ms.Smart the trip just because I dreaded the whole passport thing from the get go ?)
Since I didn’t have any experience or anyone helping me with this … I decided maybe some of you were in my same position.
So, here is how we got a passport for our up and coming world traveler.
You need to gather some documents initially. Those would be 1) proof of citizenship, 2) proof of identity and 3) a recent color photo. They are all things you should already have on hand (except maybe the correct size picture) but let me give you a little more detail on each.
The proof of citizenship is as simple as a certified copy of the applicants birth certificate or a previous passport. Easy peasy …right? If you have extenuating circumstances where you weren’t born in the United States or something like that … you will need to look on the US Department of State website for instructions on obtaining an acceptable proof of citizenship.
A proof of identity is also very simple. Any of the following are adequate as long as they contain a photo and signature of the applicant:
- current drivers license
- Military ID
- previous/current passport
- federal/state/municipal government employee ID
Now the recent color photo is a little more difficult only because there are quiet a few requirements that have to be met. It has to be a 2 x 2 inch square with full frontal view of the applicants face – from the bottom of the chin to top of the head to include hair. Applicant must have a neutral facial expression ( no silly faces like some peoples driver’s license ?…lol). Both eyes are required to be open. If the applicant wears glasses, they are not allowed in the picture.
The way the literature reads, it sounded like you could take your own photo as long as all the requirements were met.
However, for us it was just easier to run over to our local Walgreens and have them snap a quick pic. That way we were sure we had it right the first go round. We didn’t want any hassle or denials because of a silly 2 x 2 photo.
Once you have all of that collected, follow these 6 steps to complete your passport-obtaining journey.
1.Go to the US Department of State website. They have all kinds of frequently asked questions and resource links. To my surprise, this where I found out that if a child is 16 they are considered an adult by the Department of State and do not require an adult to apply or sign for their passport. “Do not require parental consent”. Interesting…huh?
There is also information on whether you need a passport book versus passport card and the cost associated with each. ( The fees were actually a lot less than I had anticipated them being. That was a plus!)
2.At the top right side of the US Passports and National Travel page, there is a yellow tabbed book labeled “FORMS”. Since this is your first time getting a passport, you will need to select the option for the DS-11: Application for a US Passport.
3.We chose the option to fill out the application online. With this option, you type in all the required information and it is printed out on the forms nice and neat (and exactly where it is supposed to be). This is an excellent option for someone who may not have the neatest handwriting. You would hate to have the application denied for illegible information.
4.After you print out the application, check to make sure that all the information that was plugged into the form is actually correct. (Computers and electronics can still make mistakes you know.)
5.If all is good…take the application, proof of citizenship, proof of identity and photo to the nearest passport acceptance facility. You will have to search for this information in your area. For us, it was the courthouse right in town – 5 minutes down the road.
NOTE: This is very important!! DO NOT MAIL YOUR APPLICATION!! You can only mail your application if you are renewing a previous passport!!
6. At the application accepting facility, you need to turn over all your paperwork and pay the associated fees. I’ll be completely honest with you here … I totally had a problem with giving away the only certified copy of Ms. Smart’s birth certificate that I had. Yeah … I could get another one as my husband was quick to point out but I suppose I was a bit emotionally attached to that one. (I had gotten it right after she was born and actually kept up with it for 17 years. I know …. super silly.)
The clerk of court who accepted the paperwork assured me that it would be returned. I was still skeptical though.
Another note of advice… there are 2 fees you have to pay … an application fee and an execution fee. These have to be paid separately. I made the mistake of writing one check for the total amount to which I had to tear it up and redo 2 separate ones. Not a huge deal for us because we were the only ones there. But if you have go somewhere that’s busy, it could be an inconvenience for you and them.
That’s it … the whole application process.
I told you it was super easy.
All you do now is wait and wait and wait.
The Department of State website said at the time of Ms. Smart’s application that it routinely takes 6-8 weeks to process, print and receive your passport. ( There is an option to have the process expedited in 2-3 weeks for an additional $60 fee. As y’all already know or will come to find out … I’m
a tight-wad frugal and there was no way I was paying extra for that. Lol)
The passport was actually delivered to our house in 4 weeks from the time we dropped off everything at the courthouse. That was 2-4 weeks sooner than anticipated.
It came in a very plain discreet cardboard envelope. Nothing that would draw the attention of an identity thief (my husband works in law enforcement…we are big on being aware of the risks and consequences of identity theft).
Remember how the clerk of court assured me that the birth certificate would be returned with the passport?
Well … it wasn’t with it and needless to say …I was a little pissed ?. I mean surely she should know what the heck she’s talking about right? Not in this case she didn’t … it was MIA.
I stewed on that for a week when another unassuming envelope came in the mail addressed to Ms. Smart. Lo and behold … it was her birth certificate. Woot-Woot! I had to take back all the bad things I had said about that super nice clerk of court. Hehehe.?
Apparently, everything is sent to a verification facility where all the applicant’s information and documents are checked out. The actual passport is printed at another facility. The birth certificate is sent back from the verification facility and the passport is sent from the printer.
I’m sure it’s probably more complex than that but I wanted to explain it how I understood it. Hopefully that will alleviate any concerns you may have about turning over your own birth certificate.
There it is folks… start to finish getting a passport . Do you have a passport? How was your experience? Do you have any tips or advice that may be helpful? Let’s here about it in the comments below.