How to Get a U.S. Passport after Naturalization
You did it! After all that long, hard work to become a naturalized
citizen of the United States, you finally realized your dream. Now, not
only can you vote, but you can be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger and
run for public office. You cannot be deported, you can apply for
education scholarships and small business grants, you can sponsor
family members for their green cards, and much more. There are so many
new opportunities available to you, not the least of which is to be
able to travel abroad long term.
Enjoy the Benefits of a U.S. Passport
As a green card holder, if you traveled outside the U.S. for more than
six months in a year, you ran the risk of not being allowed back in the
States because your green card status could be considered abandoned. As
a U.S. citizen, however, you can now travel virtually anywhere in the
world for as long as you want, exercising a level of travel freedom
available to citizens from very few countries. You'll get visa-free
travel to 174 countries and have the full protection and support of
U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world during your travels.
Other perks of having a coveted U.S. passport are that they
serve as an irrefutable form of identification, and as additional
documented proof of citizenship beyond your Certificate of Naturalization
Whether you want to book an around-the-world ticket or live abroad for
a couple of years, when you're ready, you can always come home the
United States with your U.S. passport. It's your ticket to freedom. Now
that you know how important it is to get your passport right away, how
do you get started?
Take Steps to Get a U.S. Passport
Getting your first U.S. passport
can seem like a daunting task, but you've already navigated your way to
citizenship, so it isn't anything you can't handle. Break the process
down into steps, and it will be manageable. The first step you should
take is to identify a passport acceptance facility
near you and make an appointment. Appointments can take several weeks
to get, depending on where you live and the time you are applying.
Prepare for Your Passport Appointment
Download, fill out, and print the passport application Form DS-11
from the Internet, or pick one up from your passport acceptance
facility prior to your appointment and fill it out by hand. Do not sign
the form, because it has to be signed in front of the passport
acceptance agent. Next, go to a business that specializes in passport photos
and get your photo taken; stores like Walgreens or CVS are good choices.
Either scan and print a copy of your U.S. driver's license or
government-issued ID at home, or have a copy made when you get your
photo taken. The copy should show both the front and back of your ID on
a single 8½ x 11 piece of white paper. You will also want to make a
copy of your Certificate of Naturalization for your own use.
Go to Your Passport Appointment
Bring your filled out and unsigned DS-11 form, color passport
photo, color copy of your identification, original Certificate of
Naturalization, and your ID with you to your passport appointment. The
agent will ask to see your ID, then have you sign the DS-11 form, and
collect your photo, supporting documents, $110 passport fee, and $25
execution fee from you. You will receive your passport in about four to
six weeks; the documents you submitted with your application will be
returned to you within two weeks of receiving your passport. If you
don't get your Certificate of Naturalization back, immediately contact
the National Passport Information Center to report it.
Protect Yourself during the Application Process
It is crucial to note that you will be submitting your original
Certificate of Naturalization as proof of citizenship with your
application. While your passport application is being processed, you
will not have access to your naturalization certificate, and therefore
will have no proof of citizenship during that time. To protect
yourself, it is imperative that before you submit the original
document, you make and keep a copy of it. You will also want to send
the application and supporting documents in a protective envelope using
a traceable delivery method.
What If You Are In a Hurry?
If you planned an international trip within a month of receiving
your U.S. citizenship, you probably need to expedite your application.
Waiting to receive it by routine service would be a big risk. Expedited
service through a local application acceptance facility can take up to
3 weeks or more. The fastest way to get a passport
is to apply at a regional agency
. You can do this yourself or get a third party to submit the application
with your authorization.
Protect Your New Passport
Once you receive your new passport
you will want to take several steps to protect it. To keep your travel
document safe, sign it right away in ink, fill out the emergency
contact information in pencil and put it in a secure location. Never
throw away your old or expired passport, because you will need it to
get a renewal and use it as evidence for the longevity of your
If you're a new citizen who has gotten a U.S. passport, what was your
experience? Did the process go smoothly? Did you have any problems
getting your Certificate of Naturalization back? Tell us about it in
the comment section below.
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