How to Apply for a US Passport

If you're going on a cruise or trip, it's critical that you have a passport. In fact, it's wise to always have a valid passport available. You never know what life will throw at you.

First, the basics. A US passport proves you are a citizen of the US. This gives you important rights when you are in a foreign country. It also means that the US will let you back in through our borders - always a nice thing! If you're 15 or younger, your passport will only be good for 5 years, but once you are 16, your passport is valid for 10 years.

First, you need to print out the application form (linked to at the end of this article). Fill it out but DO NOT sign it. Also get 2 photos that are 2"x2" in size, and proof of your US birth. Your birth certificate with a raised seal on it is usually best. In addition, have your social security number with you.

Now you have to go to a Passport Acceptance Facility. A search tool to find one near you is linked to below. Most post offices will take a passport application, as will many other locations. You need to go in person, have the person look over your documentation. Then you need to sign the form in their presence, so they can see it is actually you that signs the form. The total price is $97 - not bad for a proof of citizenship that lasts 10 years.

Normally once you submit a request, you get the passport in the mail in about 6 weeks. If you are in a rush, there is an expedited service (for an additional fee of course) that can get it done in about 2 weeks. If it's a true life-or-death emergency, you can call the passport agency to talk with them about it.

Yes, some cruise lines say they will take documents other than a passport. But if you are ever getting off the ship, there's no guarantee that every foreign country will be quite as happy with your make-do documentation. A passport is universally recognized and understood. There is no question what a passport is. I really recommend getting a passport - not only for your immediate cruise needs, but to have on hand in case other emergencies or trips spring up.

Online Passport Form to Print
Passport Acceptance Facility search tool

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