Travel Info & Reviews Air travel

Applying for your first U.S. Passport

It’s time to get your first U.S. passport! Then you’ll be ready to take your first international trip. Let me guide you through getting your first U.S. passport. This guide is for those who live in the US. But many of the tips will work if you are in another country as well.

Do not wait until the last minute

It takes a long time to get a passport. Times can be longer or shorter due to demand and the time of year. When you get your first passport it takes longer than when you renew your passport.  Eight weeks is the standard minimum time to process a passport application. Anything under eight weeks will require an expediting fee. Plan ahead and get it way in advance of your trip.


Passport book versus a passport card

There is a less expensive version of a passport called a passport card that will allow you to enter certain countries when you’re crossing borders by land or sea. It will not work for international flights. Some people use both. I recommend choosing the passport book if you will mostly traveling internationally by airplane.

Have all the right documents

To apply for a U.S. passport you will need to be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. national. The following documents will need to be photocopied and submitted with your passport application (white, 8.5″ x 11″ standard paper, black and white, single sided).

  • Proof of citizenship (birth certificate or certificate of naturalization)
  • Acceptable photo ID document (driver’s license)

Check the official website here for more details on acceptable forms of ID.

Take the perfect passport photo

Practice how you want to look before you take your passport photo. This photo will live with you for 10 years. You want it to be a good one.

Your passport photo must be in color and taken within the last 6 months. The photo must be a clear image of your face without any filters. It cannot be a selfie. You cannot use glasses. Your background must be white or off-white and there can be no shadows or textures.

In 2017 I tried to save money and have someone take a passport picture for me. It’s nearly impossible to get a good picture, with a good background and without any shadows. CVS and Walgreens are great places to get your passport photos taken.

Make sure you like the photo. If you don’t like it, ask the store associate to take it again. I made this mistake when I got my first passport photo. I had to walk around for 10 years with a an orange face on my passport picture. Don’t make this mistake. Check the official website here for the type of clothing that you can wear. Surprisingly you cannot wear anything that’s a uniform or that looks like a uniform.

Protect your first passport with a case

The U.S. passport is valid for 10 years. This means it will go through a lot and you want to keep it from getting damaged. I recommend a case that is made of durable material and that is a bright color so it can be easily found.

Small Carry On Essentials

Make copies of your first passport

The worst case scenario is that you lose your passport or it gets stolen. Even if this happens, you can be prepared . Make printed copies of your passport or take pictures using your phone. Email those photos to yourself and a trusted person not traveling with you.

Now you’re all set to apply for your first passport and take your first international trip! Check out more of my travel tips here.

Image Credit 1, 2, 3

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