First-Time Applicant Passport Tips

By Alicia Squillante

With tourism websites like Kayak, Travelocity and Expedia filled to the brim with great deals on exciting destination packages that would normally seem out of the average American’s price range, the need to acquire a passport becomes priority number one. The great news is that in recent years, obtaining a passport has become easier and faster than ever.

I found the official U.S. Department of State website to be the clearest to understand and the simplest to navigate. For those who are applying for their first passport, go to http://travel.state. gov/passport/ and click on ‘First Time Adult Applicant’.

Once on the website, you will need to fill out form DS-11, which can be filled in and printed out online or you can print the form out and fill it in using black ink. You may also pick up a DS-11 form at the nearest Acceptance Facility. Most Post Offices are considered such facilities, but if you are unsure, you may go to http://iafdb.travel. state.gov/ and enter in your zip code and the list of facilities will appear.

The first step, and this is very important, is to make sure you have the proper birth certificate. A birth certificate must include your full name, date and place of  birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records (state, country or city/town office), and the full names of your parents. If you don’t have this, you can visit the Office of Vital Statistics in Brandon located at 212 S. Moon Ave. For those born out of state, you will need to contact the office closest to where you were born. You may visit www.vitalchek.com to order your certificate.

Now that you have your birth certificate you will also need your driver’s license or another form of photo identification. After those items, you will also need a photograph for your passport. While CVS and Walgreens will take your passport photo for a couple of dollars cheaper, if you want, you can have your photo taken when you bring in your documentation.

Now that you have everything that you need, you’ll need to know where to go and how much money to bring. You will need to have cash, check or a money order to purchase your passport. For an adult passport book, the cost is $110. You will also be charged an execution fee of $25. Passports can take four to six weeks to get mailed to you, however if you need your passport in less time, you can pay to have the service expedited for an additional $60. For the expanded list of fees, please visit http://travel.state.gov/passport/fees/fees_837.html. Many Acceptance Facilities will need you to make an appointment. If you do not wish to go that route, one such place that you can go is the Hillsborough County Service Center at 311 Pauls Dr. in Brandon.

If you need more information, or have other questions that were not addressed, please visit http://travel.state.gov/.