My Passport Process

This year I will be thirty and I have yet to get a passport, until this week.  With my Cruise Radio show exploding at the seams it will be anytime until I get invited overseas to cover a new ship release or a dry dock visit (I can dream right?) ….so this week I took the plunge….  I applied for my passport.

A lot of people have been asking about the passport process and whats all involved in it so I figure i will outline it for you the best that I can.  First off NO, you do not need a passport to go on a cruise. Cruises are exempt from a passport under the closed loop clause.  Closed loop cruise basically means your are leaving and departing from the same port of call (domestic).

 So how do you get your passport? 

Go to the Department of State website and check all the prerequisites.  Once you fill out the application, print it out and guard it with your life (there is your personal information on there).  Now if you don’t feel comfortable doing the passport application online you can do it at the passport office but make sure you fill in all the fields and use a black pen (that’s something the form doesn’t say on it).
You will need two color photos for your passport.  The photo’s you need are very soporific Go to your local Walgreens or CVS store and have your passport made.  I would suggest not bringing your own pictures.  It’s worth the $7.99 to have it professionally made. 
Make a copy of your drivers license, front and back. You will need two separate pages for this (a page for the front and a page for the back of your license). 
You will also need your original birth certificate.  They mail your birth certificate to the passport office but they will mail it back to you when they send off for your passport.  If you are afraid of sending off your original birth certificate, go to the Department of Vital Statistics where you were born and get a duplicate (that’s what I did for $10).
There is a fee associated with getting your passport, for me it was a $25 dollar processing fee (which can be paid in debit or cash to your local post office or annex) and $75 which must be in check or money order form made out to the Depart of State. 
How long does it take?  The processing times vary throughout out the year, this time of year a lot of people are applying for their passports because they are going to be traveling abroad for school or going on summer vacation.  Right now you can plan on about 4-6 weeks to get your passport.  You can opt for expedited service for an additional $60, that will speed the processing time up to about 2-3 weeks. 
Tips I can offer for first time passport applicants is to make sure you have all your paperwork in line and give yourself plenty of time, and leave early.  A lot of agencies cut passport processing off at a certain time to accommodate the people waiting.  For example, the first place I went to was a three hour wait, the second place I was in and out in 45 minutes max.
Good luck, its painless, just be prepared when you go because the agents processing passports don’t have a sense of humor!

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