16 Tips for Preventing Passport Problems
Carelessness is the main cause for a passport application being
rejected or delayed or for a passport being lost, stolen or damaged.
But what steps are necessary to prevent these things from happening?
How can you take care of your passport? Below are practical tips you
can follow to acquire your passport, keep it in your possession and
preserve it in good condition.
Before You Go
1. Check to see if you need a passport.
The majority of international destinations require a valid passport for entry. While you can enter some countries without a passport
, you may still need a passport for reentry to the United States due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
that was inaugurated in 2007. If you have any doubt about your planned
destination, visit our Foreign Entry Requirements Page
2. Apply early.
You should apply for a new passport at least
three months before your departure date. For a renewal, start 8 to 11
months before your passport expires. Why so early? Many countries
require that your passport have six months validity
before they will issue a visa or allow entry.
If you're in an emergency situation and need your passport in a hurry, you will need to expedite your passport
3. Fill out the appropriate form correctly.
Each type of passport service has specific criteria that must be
met. Make sure you get the right application form
. Then fill it in
carefully. Double-check each entry. Ask a friend or relative to verify
it as well. Errors made on the application form can lead to rejection
of your passport request. If the State Department does not catch the
error and prints it on your passport, you could find yourself being
barred from entering your plane.
4. Follow the specifications for the accompanying documents exactly.
When applying for a new passport, the most frequently used documents
are a certified birth certificate
for proof of citizenship and a valid
driver's license for proof of identity.
Your birth certificate must be a certified copy with a registrar's
raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar's
signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's
office, which must be within 1 year of your birth. No photocopies are
accepted. Your driver's license must be more than six months old.
For a passport renewal, your previous passport serves as both proof of citizenship
and proof of identity
. It should not be mutilated, altered, or damaged in any way.
You must send one passport photo taken within the last 6 months.
It must be 2x2 inches with a plain white or off-white background. It
has to be full-face with the head being from 1 to 1 3/8 inches from the
chin to the top of the head. The photo must be in color. Black and
white photos are no longer accepted.
5. Sign both the application form and your check.
Surprisingly, many people forget to sign either the passport
application form or their check to Passport Services. Once again, check
everything twice and ask for someone else to verify.
6. Request additional pages.
Are you a frequent flyer? Ask for a 52-page passport at no
additional cost. It will allow you to travel longer before replacing
7. Sign your passport and fill out the emergency information.
When your passport arrives, check to see that all the
information contained in it is correct. If it is, sign it and fill in
your current address and the name of a person to contact in case of
emergency. If not, return it to the State Department for correction
8. Make two copies of your passport and photos.
Give one copy of your passport to a friend or relative who can be
easily contacted in case of an emergency. Take the other copy and the
extra photos with you on your trip. If you use an online document
storage service, you can scan your passport and upload a copy. That
way, you can access it at any time.
While Traveling Abroad
9. Keep your passport in a safe place.
Never leave your passport in your baggage, backpack, purse,
automobile, hotel room or elsewhere. When you must carry your passport,
keep it in a money belt or inside a coat pocket. Upon arrival at the
hotel, put your passport in the hotel safe.
10. Never leave your passport lying anywhere.
Passports placed on a counter, phone booth or table can be
easily forgotten or stolen. Acquire the habit of immediately putting
your passport away after using it.
11. If you travel with family or in a group, don't let one person carry all the passports.
The odds are much greater for one person carrying all the
passports to lose them or have them stolen than for all the passports
to be stolen or lost if they are carried by each individual owner.
12. Never let anyone leave your presence with your passport.
When you are checking in at the airport, passing through
customs, exchanging currency or doing anything else that requires you
to show your passport, never allow the person examining your passport
to leave your presence. If the person starts to leave, call their
attention and request to accompany them.
Law enforcement records show that U.S. passports are sometimes used for
illegal entry into the United States or by criminals abroad seeking to
establish another identity. You would be pretty embarrassed if your
name were associated with illegal activities.
13. Immediately report the loss or theft of your passport.
If you are careful and follow the tips above, you shouldn't have any
problem with the loss or theft of your passport. If it does occur
though, immediately notify the local police and then proceed to the
nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
. Take the copy of your passport and
extra photos with you. You will be issued a temporary passport that you
can replace upon returning to the United States.
After You Return
14. Schedule your passport renewal.
Check the expiration date and make a reminder to renew your passport
the proper time. Remember, you should begin the process 8 to 11 months
prior to its expiration. Put the reminder somewhere where it won't be
15. Check the number of blank pages remaining.
Some countries require a blank page for their visa and/or entry stamps. If you plan
a future trip on which you will visit various countries, you might need
the same number of pages as countries to be visited. If you do not have
adequate number of pages, you need to submit your passport for a renewal. You can no longer apply for additional pages
; this service has been discontinued effected January 2016.
16. Keep your passport in a safe place.
If you have a home safe, keep your passport there. If not,
purchase a fireproof/waterproof case
and keep your passport, along with other
important documents in it. We do not recommend keeping it in a safety
deposit box because you would be unable to retrieve it during
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