I travel off and on for work-related conferences and meetings, and to date my travel to date has been entirely domestic. That being said, it’s not likely that I’ll be presented with the opportunity to travel overseas in the near future. Thus, I thought it was high time to get myself a passport. That’s right, I’m 35 years old, and I’ve never had a passport. In fact, I’ve never been anywhere outside the country except for Canada, Mexico, and a few random stops on a Caribbean cruise. While I’ve been meaning to get a passport for a couple of years now, I’ve never managed to just go do it. But other day I finally pulled the trigger.
The main reason I got off my butt and took care of this was that I needed to get a new ID card for work, and was presented with the opportunity to get passport photos for eight bucks at the same time. I jumped at the opportunity, headed back to my office to download and print the passport application forms (available from the State Department web site), and then headed to the Post Office a couple of days later to turn in the paperwork. Since this was a new passport application, I actually had to apply in person — depending on the circumstances, you can often renew your passport by mail.
The only real gotcha for getting a passport is that you need positive identification and some sort of proof of citizenship. In my case, this was certified copy of my birth certificate (complete with a raised seal). I nearly forgot this, but managed to show up at the Post Office with everything that I needed. The application process was totally painless. There’s a spot on the application where you need to sign in front of the clerk (so be sure not sign it before you show up).
In terms of cost, I wrote a $67 check to the US Department of State, and paid an additional $30 to the Postmaster for the privilege of applying at the Post Office. The most surprising thing to me was that they kept my birth certificate. Apparently this has to go in with the application (they must not trust the clerks) and it will be returned to me with my passport. The most disconcerting thing about this is that I won’t have a certified copy of my birth certificate for the next six to eight weeks. It’s not like I use it all that often, but I still don’t like having it out of my possession. To be fair, I could’ve paid an additional $60 for ‘rush’ service, in which case I would’ve received my passport within 15 days, but it just didn’t seem worth it.