How to Get a U.S. Passport

Liz Smith
Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!

 / May 14, 2018



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.  


Get Your Passport Early as Possible!!!


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.


Save Money By Getting Your Passport Yourself - It's Not Difficult!


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. 


Step 1:  Get your Passport Form


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.


  1. - If you’re applying for the first time or are under 17 years of age the correct form is DS-11



  2. - If you’re renewing an old adult passport you need DS-82



  3. - If you’re changing your name within a year, correcting a passport error or replacing a Limited Validity passport you need DS-5504



** 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.



Step 2:  Gather your Evidence


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.



  1.  - A certified US birth certificate issues by the city country or state. Keep in mind that this needs to be the original notarised form, a copy isn’t good enough. You can call the government of the state in which you were born for the official document if you don’t have it or visit this website.


  2. - If you weren’t born in the United States you need records of your birth abroad, as well as.

      1. o  Your naturalisation certificate

    1. o  Your certificate of citizenship



  3. -  Proof of Identity, this can be

    1. o  Previous passport (intact and undamaged)

    2. o  Valid Drivers Licence

    3. o  Government ID (city state or federal)

    4. o  Military ID



  4. -  Your social security number (written down or memorized, doesn’t matter)


Step 3:  Passport Photos


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.


Step 4:  U.S. Passport Fees


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.



Step 5:  Get the Passport


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.


Step 6:   How long does it take to get your U.S. Passport


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.



Speeding Up the U.S. Passport Process


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. 


Passport Travel Tips


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.

Sign Up for Our Free Newsletters

Please submit in right format.

Thank you for signing up!

RELATED LINKS

Sign Up for Our Free Newsletters

Please submit in right format.

Thank you for signing up!

RELATED ARTICLES
  • Meet Georgina Everington, Career China Global Talent Specialist

    After being a teacher in China & trainer at her school, George now helps others begin their journey to teach in China.

  • Meet Dan Agar - Global Talent Specialist for Career China

    Traveling the world & teaching English in China made an impact on Dan. Now he helps others who want to work in China.

  • Healthcare in China - A Guide for Expats

    Learn about healthcare in China and options for expats to get health insurance while living and working in China.

Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!