I was so nervous when I went to apply for my first passport. It turned out to be a piece of cake, partly because I went to my local library. Yup. The library. My local library system actually has a dedicated passport acceptance facility that walks you through every aspect of applying for a passport, with super friendly staff willing to help you through any difficulties you might have.
Luckily, because I carefully read through the instructions about a zillion and three times, I didn’t have any problems. Here are a few of the things I discovered I needed before getting my new passport:
- An actual birth certificate – It turns out that almost everyone in my family got some sort of notice of live birth, not an actual official certificate. After my mom found out she had a notice instead of a certificate and had to go through all kinds of stress trying to get a passport weeks before her cruise, not to mention paying extra money with every step, I checked mine. It was a hospital certificate. Yikes! I sent for my official birth certificate over a year before I needed my passport, which saved me the expense of having to pay for a rush on the process.
- Two checks – The passport acceptance facility will have processing fees that are separate from the Department of State’s fees. You’ll need two checks because the payments go to different places. (Acceptance fees can usually be paid with cash, check, or credit card, but the government wants a check or money order only.)
- An accurately filled out application -Oops. I got my mother’s date of birth wrong the first time. (She didn’t mind because who doesn’t want to shave a few years off, huh?) The second time, I had misspelled a road name. So, definitely read over the completed application a few times. I printed a second copy, too, just in case I spilled tea or something on it. Don’t sign it. Also, don’t fill it out in pencil or blue ink. It was easier for me to fill it out online and print it than search for the perfect black ink pen. (I did discover before I decided to go with the online option that I like colored ink pens. A lot. Purple, orange, red…)
- Decision on whether I wanted a book or a card – I knew I was going to be traveling a lot and sometimes heading overseas, so I went with a book. If you are traveling more locally, (Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda) and don’t plan to travel outside the areas covered by a card, you may want the cheaper option.
- An appointment to apply – My original plan was to turn in my application at the post office. Unfortunately, the post office near me had a really lengthy wait just to make an appointment to turn in my application. That’s when I discovered that the Harford County Public Library system had a drop in acceptance facility. Yay! I went in the morning so I could avoid the evening rush and was done in a little over an hour from the time I was handed a pager to be notified when it was my turn to apply.
- A passport photo – Turns out I didn’t need it ahead of time since the library’s facility can take the photo right there as an add-on service. However, you can have them taken at several different places, like CVS or Walgreens.
- A current license – If you don’t drive, state ID’s and military ID’s also work. I needed a photocopy of the front and back of the license, too.
That was it. I went over my application, got my photo, paid all the fees with my two checks, handed over my birth certificate and it was all done but the waiting! I was a little nervous about my birth certificate, but the Department of State got it back to me safe and sound. When I got my passport, I went right out and made copies. I gave one to a family member who doesn’t travel and kept the other two for myself. If it ever is lost or stolen, I will be able to easily access the information I need to report it.