Some of the most common questions I receive around the passport process is how much is a passport? What are the requirements needed to get a passport? Can I apply online? and Do I really need TSA Precheck? I will explain the cost of obtaining a U.S. passport, where to apply for a passport, and the fees associated with obtaining a passport.
What Is a Passport and Why Do You Need One?
A passport is a travel document that easily identifies you and gives you permission you to travel outside of your home country. If you live in the United States, your passport will be a small navy blue booklet, which will contain your photo, name, date of birth, residence in the United States, and blank pages waiting to be stamped.
If you are thinking about traveling to another country you will need to apply for a passport and once you arrive into the new country, you will give your passport over to immigration, who will then stamp one of your pages with their country’s official seal. Not a big deal but you must have a passport in order to enter another country and to return to the US after you have checked a destination off of your bucket list.
What You Need to Apply for a Passport
- Passport application forms
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- Proof of your identity
- Two current photographs
- Your social security number
- Applicable fee payment method
How To Apply for a Passport
Step 1: Go to your local U.S. post office and grab a passport application or you can download the passport application forms online and print the application right from the comforts of your home.
If printing the form from home the application MUST be printed in black ink on white paper. The paper must be 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, with no holes or perforations and also none of that shiny paper that you used to send out invitations to your kids birthday parties.
Step 2: Once you print out the passport application please read the instructions that are printed on the first and second pages completely before even attempting to fill out the form. Completely fill out page 3 of the application in its entirety using black ink only and then move on and read page four of the application.
Step 3: Remember all of the information I told you to gather earlier which will include proof that you are an American citizen according to the U.S. Department of State.
- Certified U.S. birth certificate issued by the city, county, or state (not a copy).
- Records of birth abroad if you weren’t born in the United States
- Naturalization certificate
- Certificate of citizenship
Provide proof of your identity with any of the following:
- Previous U.S. passport (damaged passports are not accepted)
- Naturalization certificate
- Certificate of citizenship
- Current and valid:
- Driver’s license
- Government ID: city, state, or federal
- Military ID: military and dependents
Step 4: Go to your local Walgreens and get two passport photos taken to submit with your application. This is not the time to have on your Sunday best attire. If you wear glasses wear them and look straight ahead and don’t smile. I know you want to show off your pearly whites but you must have a neutral face for your passport photo.
Step 5: Make sure you have your Social Security number.
Step 6: After you have completed the application and had your lovely photo taken the next step is to pay the application and execution fees. Make sure you check the fees online as they often change and The Department of State announced this week that the passport execution fee will be $35 starting on April 2, which means that adult passport books will now cost $145, up from $135, while child passports (aged 16-years-old and young) will now cost $115, up from $105.
Check with the location where you’ll be applying to find what payment methods are accepted so you will be prepared.
Step 7: Find the passport office location nearest you and provide them with your completed form, passport photos, and money for your passport. You will need to provide your departure date for your trip and if you don’t have a firm date just put any date down.
You will receive your U.S. passport in about four to eight to weeks. For an additional fee of $60 plus overnight delivery fees, you can rush a U.S. passport application.
How to Expedite a Passport
- Prepare your passport application materials
- Find out how much your passport fees will be
- Find the passport application address you will need
- Contact that passport office to find out what payment methods are accepted
- Put your materials, including payment method, in a manila letter-sized envelope, address it to the correct office, write “Expedited” on the envelope, and send it.
- Take your envelope to the post office and I suggest overnighting the application if you have the available funds
It takes longer to get a passport renewed so make sure you give adequate time to receive your passport after you have scheduled and paid for your upcoming trip. The Passport Bureau of Consular Affairs is expecting more than 20 million applications in 2019.
While The Passport Bureau will do everything they can to ensure you will receive your passport in a timely manner but with 20 million applicants things are not going to go as quickly as you would like so get your application in early so you will not miss exploring some unknown destination.
How Far In Advance Should You Renew Your Passport?
Most countries require your passport to be valid for six months following your incoming flight? That means that even though your passport may technically not be expired for the duration of your trip, you could still not be allowed to leave the country.
The Six Months Validity Rule is imposed by foreign countries, and not by the United States. It simply means that your passport should be valid for more than six months before you would be allowed to enter a foreign destination.
This rule is imposed by some of the countries I have listed below. (Visit Passports and International Travel for more countries who require the 6-month rule.
- Burma (Myanmar)
- Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
- Ecuador (including the Galápagos Islands)
- French Polynesia
Renew Your Passport Even if You Do Not Plan to Travel
You never know when the travel bug might hit you or you might win the lottery and who has time to be waiting around 60 days to get a passport after you have hit the mega millions? It’s always good to just know your passport is valid.
Also, a passport is an official proof of citizenship, and a great backup should you ever lose your driver’s license. I just lost my drivers license two weeks ago flying to MN and I was able to use my passport as ID and had I not had a passport I would not have been able to fly.
The Renewal Process for Children
“Remember the requirements for children are more stringent and the renewal process can be time-intensive for minors under 16, with additional steps and materials required, including the child’s social security number and a DS-3053 Form that serves as a statement of consent from the minor’s parents.
Additionally, for those under 16, passport applications and renewals must be submitted in person. Keep in mind that passports for younger travelers are only valid for five years, so it’s important to budget enough time to get renewed before your next international trip with the kiddos.
TSA PreCheck: What’s The Cost and Do I Really Need It?
Now that you have your passport and you have started to knock destinations off of your bucket list one by one you know going through airport security can be a pain in the you know what! l am going to discuss the ins and outs of the TSA Precheck program and what it really means for you as a seasoned traveler.
What Is the TSA?
TSA’s main function is air travel security, which includes the administration of the screening process at airports. Additional security measures including canine units and Federal Air Marshals are also employed by the TSA at airports.
What Is TSA PreCheck?
It is 1 of 5 trusted traveler programs, which also include Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS. These 4 are intended for personal and business travelers, while the fifth program is for commercial trucking (FAST).
Unlike the other trusted traveler programs that are administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, TSA PreCheck is run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The program was started in October 2011 and allows the TSA to expedite the security checkpoint process for low-risk travelers.
What Airlines Participate in TSA PreCheck?
What Are The Benefits of TSA PreCheck?
After years of taking off your shoes to go through airport security, the most noticeable difference might be that you can finally just leave them on when using TSA Pre. Additional perks include leaving on light outerwear and jackets, belts, and keeping laptops and small liquids in your bag.
Essentially, it makes having carry-on luggage a breeze as you won’t have to take everything you carefully packed into it back out to go through the security line!
These aspects of the program make the screening process much quicker, which is perhaps the best benefit of them all, especially on busy travel days.
Even with these perks, randomly selected travelers will still be pulled for extra screening, but the overall time through security will still be an improvement.
How Does The Program Work?
To use it, you first need to complete the membership application and approval process. If approved, your membership will be active for 5 years. At this point, you will have to renew your membership if you wish to keep it.
Once you have completed the in-person appointment (assuming everything checks out), you will be notified, receive your Known Traveler Number, and become eligible to use the TSA PreCheck security lanes.
Before traveling, make sure you add your Known Traveler Number to your reservation to ensure you have access to TSA Pre. Many airlines will allow you to do this online, but you can also call the airline to have your number added to your reservation.
You can also add this to your frequent flyer accounts so it will be automatically included when you book your flights.
If you notice that “TSA PreCheck” is not printed on your boarding pass or showing on your mobile boarding pass, speak with the appropriate airline check-in desk for assistance. It must be listed on your boarding pass, or you will not be allowed to access those security lanes.
What Credit Cards Reimburse the Application Fee?
As big fans of credit cards and the many travel benefits they provide, we want to share with you our recommended cards that will reimburse you for the application fee.
If you use one of the following cards to pay the $85 application fee, you will receive a statement credit. You could also use the following cards to be reimbursed for the $100 fee for Global Entry instead since it provides access to TSA Pre too.
Cardholders are eligible for the statement credit once every 5 years, which is the length of your TSA Pre or Global Entry membership.
Applying For TSA PreCheck
To apply, you must fill out an online application so the TSA can conduct a background check. You’ll have to include information such as citizenship, address, date of birth, and immigration documentation (if applicable).
Once you have finished your application, you will need to make an appointment at an enrollment center. There are over 380 enrollment centers located throughout the United States.
At your interview, you will be required to show a valid photo ID, proof of citizenship, and immigration documentation if applicable.
The interview is quick and mostly for verification. You can expect questions about yourself and your travel, and you will be fingerprinted during the process.
You will be notified of approval (or denial) within 2-3 weeks once the in-person interview is complete, but many people are approved within several days. During this time, you can check your status online.
Don’t wait to apply as in-person appointment slots can fill up quickly.
A Step-by-Step Application Walkthrough
If you’re looking for a quick rundown on the application process, we have you covered! Let’s dive right into it:
Step 1: Visit the TSA Pre Home Page
Once on the homepage, you need to click on the red “Apply Now” button in the middle of the page. This will bring you to the first page of the application, which asks for biographical information.
Step 2: Complete the Application
Step 3: Schedule Your In-Person Interview
The final piece of the application process is to select a location for your in-person interview. You will need to search for your location. The search results will show options near you and how many appointment slots are available in the next 45 days.
Step 4: In-Person Interview
Bring all the required documents. You will select which 2 forms of ID you will bring in the online application. This could be a driver’s license and a passport. If applicable, bring any required immigration documents as well.
You will also need to bring a credit card to pay the $85 fee. You could pay by cashier (or certified) check, but with so many credit cards that reimburse you for the fee, why would you?
Step 5: Wait for an Update
Most will be notified shortly after their appointment, but it can take a little over a month. Keep this in mind when planning a trip: you don’t want to leave your application and interview to the last minute!
Step 6: Add Your Known Traveler Number to Frequent Flyer Accounts
Once approved, you will be notified and provided your Known Traveler Number. Add this to your frequent flyer accounts so it is automatically included in your itineraries going forward.
Step 7: Use the Benefits
You can now use the TSA PreCheck security lanes at over 180 airports nationwide. Enjoy your expedited screening process experience!
TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry
Global Entry provides expedited screening upon re-entering the United States from abroad. The program is administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security.
If you are a member of Global Entry, you are provided access to TSA Pre. However, having membership does not provide access to Global Entry.
The enrollment process is similar as each requires an application and in-person interview. The Global Entry application is available online. The fee for Global Entry is $100 but can be reimbursed by several credit cards and loyalty programs.
TSA PreCheck vs. NEXUS
NEXUS provides access to both Global Entry and TSA Pre. It is a joint program between the United States and Canada designed to allow more efficient travel between the 2 countries.
In addition, NEXUS provides expedited entry into Canada. Global Entry and TSA Pre members do not get this benefit.
The cost is only $50, which is a fantastic deal, but you will have to visit one of the enrollment centers located in select cities in the northern U.S.
TSA PreCheck vs. SENTRI
On the southern border of the United States, the SENTRI program provides similar benefits to that of NEXUS in the north. Members of the SENTRI program also receive access to Global Entry and TSA Pre.
To receive an expedited entry into Mexico, you are required to have a SENTRI membership, so again neither Global Entry or TSA Pre on their own will be enough. Enrollment centers are located in Arizona, California, and Texas.
If you’re going to travel often, you definitely want sign up for this program to make the security checkpoint process a little less painful!
With so many credit cards that will reimburse you for not only TSA Pre, but Global Entry as well, you might as well sign up for Global Entry if possible. You get the same access to TSA PreCheck, and it will make your return to the United States much easier.
If you know you won’t travel outside of the U.S. for 5 years, though, perhaps you only need TSA PreCheck.
Whatever the case may be, think about enrolling in this program to save time and increase efficiency at the airport!
Do you have a passport and if not will you get one now?