A passport is one of the most useful documents you can have. It gives you the ability to to travel internationally, and is also one of a very small number of documents that count as legal proof of identity. If you are applying for a job in China, then you are going to need a passport first before you can even begin the legal working visa process for China.
If you are a resident of the USA and do not yet have your passport, then we highly recommend that you follow these steps ASAP so that you can get your passport and be ready move through the visa process more quickly.
The best possible results will be gained by getting your passport early, ideally at least a few months before you think you’ll need it. It will allow you to go through the complete application process without costing you extra money for expediting the process or risking not getting the process finished in time. It also lowers the risk of errors or problems with the application process costing you your trip.
If you’re looking to apply for a passport, remember that commercial passport application agencies can cost you a good bit of money. However, you can go through the exact same steps they would, and you can do it on your own from the USPS website, or by following the directions below.
No matter what they say, these agencies cannot expedite the process any more than you can with a little research. So let us help you save a little bit of money before your trip to China by following through on the steps below.
You can print out your passport forms from the US State department website. Here’s a quick rundown that will let you know which form you need.
** Fill out the appropriate form after printing it out, but don’t’ sign it. You need to sign the document in the presence of a USPS official. If you sign it before you go in, you’ll need to get a new form.
You will need to prove your citizenship to get your passport. Funnily enough one of the easier ways to do this is having your previous passport on hand. Here’s what you’ll need.
Get two photos taken to submit with your application. It’d be easiest to get it taken at a post office, as they knew what they’re doing and the requirements. If you’re going to get them taken elsewhere make sure they’re reputable.
No matter where your photos are taken be sure to look the way you normally look. This means you should wear everyday clothes, have nothing on your head and wear anything you would usually wear that alters your appearance (glasses for example). It may be tempting to do something fun during the process. Resist that urge, remember that you’ll have to live with that photo for the next ten years.
Passports are currently $110 plus a $25 service fee to be paid to the post office. These rates do change so be sure to check online for the current price. It will cost extra to get the process expedited if you need to. Be sure to check with the location you’ll be applying to beforehand to find out what forms of payment they accept.
Once you put all this together, head into the nearest passport office location, which is usually just a post office. Hand in your completed forms, passport photos and passport fee. If you’re looking to make a specific journey be sure to provide your departure dates on your form.
This is the annoying part. Your passport should be sent out to you somewhere between two weeks and two months from your application date. Remember that any organization that claims to be able to rush the process are only doing what you’ll be shown how to do by the end of these steps. A week after your application you can check in online to see when your passport will arrive.
To get a passport application processed within two to three weeks you can contact your local post office and, for an extra $60 you can apply to have your process expedited. If you need the process shortened further, you will need to apply directly to the Department of State passport agency. You can contact them online, or call in directly for advice on what to do.
Remember that if you apply for a US passport well in advance you’re going to be able to save yourself time, money, and frustration. If you have any significant problems, feel free to head into your local post office and talk it through with the representative there.
It is recommended that you make digital copies of your passport (scanned copies that are high resolution and clear). You should leave a digital copy of your passport at home, with a friend / family member, and send an email with a copy of it and other travel documents to yourself.
This will help you if ever there is an event while you are traveling where you lose your passport. These digital copies serve as a backup to prove your identity, although you will still need to contact your local embassy for assistance to get home.
Finally, sometimes you will need to provide a digital copy of your passport for things -- like during the Chinese visa application process. Having an electronic file or scanned copy of your passport ready at all times will help you be efficient when it's needed.