The great American author Mark Twain once said, “One must travel to learn.”
But to travel, you must have a passport.
While there’s plenty to see on a road trip across the United States, if you want to really expand your horizons, you need to leave the country. International travel exposes you to new cultures, new ideas, and even has a number of health benefits.
But to legally pass between international borders, you need an official passport. “But how long does it take to get a passport?” you ask.
That answer depends on a number of factors. And if you’re too late in applying, you might have to put your trip on hold.
If you’re making travel arrangements and need to get a passport, don’t let a delay in paperwork keep you grounded. Here’s what you need to know.
Do I Really Need a Passport?
Depending on where you’re traveling, you might wonder if you really need a passport. After all, Canada is right there—do you really need a passport to drive across a bridge?
If you are entering a foreign country by land or sea, you may not need a full passport.
If you have an enhanced driver’s license or a passport card, this is all you need to enter Canada or Mexico. These documents can also get you entry into Bermuda and most Caribbean nations.
Children under the age of 16 can enter these countries with just a copy of their birth certificate. If you are active duty military, your military identification will suffice. Native Americans can cross borders with their tribal documents.
You also do not need a passport to travel to US territories. Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Guam might feel exotic, but you will not need a passport to travel there.
However, if you are traveling to a country that is not a US territory or on another continent, you will need a valid passport. Your passport should be valid for six months after your travel date.
What Do I Need To Apply For A Passport?
Before you worry about how long it will take you to get your passport, make sure you have these documents on hand.
If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you will need to complete the DS-11 form. This can be found on the government’s travel website.
Proof of Citizenship
You will need to offer proof that you are a United States citizen. This proof could be your birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, or other documents.
For a complete list of valid documents, check this page.
Proof of Identification
You will need to prove that you are the person listed on the documents.
This can be a state-issued ID, green card, military ID, or any other ID issued by a recognized entity. There is a complete list here.
Unlike driver’s licenses, you will not have your picture taken when you apply for a passport. Instead, you must provide your own photo to put on your passport.
This photo must conform to a number of requirements. Many pharmacies and convenience stores will take this picture for you, so don’t worry about remembering all of the requirements yourself.
Your passport fees are due upon application. A first-time adult application costs $135. However, there may be additional costs, such as expediting fees.
How Long Does It Take to Get A Passport?
Once you’ve applied for your passport, you might be ready to hop on a plane and see the world.
Not so fast: acquiring your passport can take some time. A standard passport application typically takes four to six weeks to process.
But that depends on a few factors.
If you have an expired passport, you might think that it would take much less time to receive your new passport than your first application.
However, renewing a passport might take as much as eight weeks. That is, if you don’t apply to have it expedited.
If your name has changed since your passport was issued, you will also need to renew your passport.
If you can’t wait that long to get your passport, you can have it expedited. An expedited application might be fulfilled in as little as two weeks.
In order to expedite a passport, you might need to provide proof of travel plans.
If you need to leave the country because of a life-or-death situation in your immediate family, you can process your application in as little as three days. However, you will need to provide proof of your situation.
If you aren’t traveling due to an emergency, but you don’t have two weeks to wait, there are other options.
Most often, you can apply for a passport at your post office or government office. However, these take a while.
If you need to get a new passport in a hurry, you can visit a passport agency.
These agencies submit passport applications on behalf of the applicant and can work to get them more quickly. In some cases, you might receive your passport within a few days.
Have Passport, Will Travel
Once you get your passport, you can stop asking, “how long does it take to get a passport?” and start asking, “where will my passport take me?”
Wherever you go, you’ll want to make the most of it. Visit this post to see how you can travel like a local!