¨I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.¨
How to Apply for a Passport?
You need a passport (or passport card) to travel outside the country nowadays. (This includes travel to Mexico and Canada).
In the US you must apply for a new passport at a ¨acceptance facility¨ (most post offices). You will be required to provide proof of citizenship (usually a birth certificate), appropriate forms, processing fees, a photo, and a photo ID. You can find the requirements and forms online. (See here for more details on US passport requirements and here for Canada)..
Generally, you should submit the passport application and supporting documentation at the ¨acceptance facility¨ 4-6 weeks in advance of travel.
The ¨acceptance facility¨ will do a cursory review and send the application to a processing center. You will receive the passport usually within a couple of weeks afterward.
You may be able to get a passport processed within fourteen days of your trip for extra money (with proof of travel) at a passport application center. (Most application centers are in larger cities like Boston or Seattle. Here is a complete list of where you can apply). You can only get a passport for immediate travel for an emergency. (More details here).
A Note on Photos
Geting the right photo for the passport application and visas can be challenging. Often the photo requirements differ from place to place. Probably the most common reason why passport agencies or consulates reject your application is because the photo does not meet the criteria. (I recommend that you try to find a photo shop that has dealt regularly with taking the applicable passport or visa photos).
How Long Are Passports Valid?
Passports are valid for ten years for US and Canadian citizens over the age of 16. Five years for those under the age of 16.