Passports and Visas

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Passports and Visas

We're always surprised at how few Americans have passports—only 25% at this writing. This number is expected to grow in coming years, when it becomes impossible to reenter the United States from trips to neighboring Canada or Mexico without one. Remember this: a passport verifies both your identity and nationality—a great reason to have one.

U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. You must apply in person if you're getting a passport for the first time; if your previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged; or if your previous passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago or when you were under 16. All children under 16 must appear in person to apply for or renew a passport. Both parents must accompany any child under 14 (or send a notarized statement with their permission) and provide proof of their relationship to the child.

There are 13 regional passport offices, as well as 7,000 passport acceptance facilities in post offices, public libraries, and other governmental offices. If you're renewing a passport, you can do so by mail. Forms are available at passport acceptance facilities and online.

The cost to apply for a new passport is $140 for adults, $120 for children under 16; renewals are $120 to $140. Allow six weeks for processing, both for first-time passports and renewals. For an expediting fee of $60 you can reduce this time to about two weeks. If your trip is less than two weeks away, you can get a passport even more rapidly by going to a passport office with the necessary documentation. Private expediters can get things done in as little as 48 hours, but charge hefty fees for their services.

Before your trip, make two copies of your passport's data page (one for someone at home and another for you to carry separately). Or scan the page and e-mail it to someone at home and/or yourself.

U.S. Passport Information

U.S. Department of State. 877/487–2778; travel.state.gov/passport.

U.S. Passport & Visa Expediters

A. Briggs Passport & Visa Expeditors. 800/806–0581; 202/338–0111; www.abriggs.com.

American Passport Express. 800/455–5166; www.americanpassport.com.

Passport Express. 800/362–8196; www.passportexpress.com.

Travel Document Systems. 800/874–5100; 202/638–3800; www.traveldocs.com.

Travel the World Visas. 866/886–8472; 202/223–8822; www.world-visa.com.

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