What are the passport requirements for your trip & how do you apply for a passport?
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A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. Only the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports. For travel overseas and to facilitate reentry into the U.S., a valid U.S. passport is the best documentation available.
A valid passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries.
Some countries may allow you to enter with only a birth certificate, or with a birth certificate and a driver?s license. Note, however, that rules established under the U.S. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, require that all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must present a valid passport to reenter the United States. (Until September 30, 2007, U.S. citizens who have applied for but not yet received passports can enter and depart the United States by air to Western Hemisphere countries with a government-issued photo identification and official proof of application for a passport. This accommodation does not affect entry requirements of other countries, and U.S. citizens who are traveling to a country that requires a visitor to have a passport must still obtain one.)
If you are traveling by land or sea, make certain that you can return to the United States with the proof of citizenship that you take with you. U.S. regulations require that you document both your U.S. citizenship and your identity when you reenter the United States.
Some countries require that a traveler?s U.S. passport be valid at least six months or longer beyond the dates of the trip. In addition, with the number of international child custody cases on the rise, several countries have instituted passport requirements to help prevent child abductions. (Mexican law, for example, requires a child traveling alone, or with only one parent, or in someone else’s custody, to carry written, notarized consent from the absent parent or parents if the child is not in possession of a U.S. passport.) Contact the embassy of the foreign destination for more information. Foreign embassy and consulate contact information can also be found on the Country Specific Information for each country.
How to Apply for a U.S. Passport
Apply for your passport several months before your planned trip, and, if you will need visas from foreign embassies, allow even more time. Even if you don?t have specific travel plans, but have family living abroad or are waiting to find a bargain trip, it is a good idea to apply as early as possible. You may be required to show you birth certificate to get your first passport. So, make sure that you allow time to get your birth certificate.
Check with State Department web site for the latest rules and regulations. Passport and visa rules change from time to time, so please ensure that you have the most current information.