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Ready to take a break from your hardscrabble life and escape to some exotic land? Before you pack your bags and run to the airport, make sure you’ve got a passport—or you ain’t going nowhere.
Step 1: Fill out passport application
Download a passport application from the Bureau of Consular Affairs website (travel.state.gov), or pick one up at your local post office, county clerk’s office, or courthouse.
Fill it out, but don’t sign it.
Step 2: Locate birth certificate
Locate your birth certificate.
A photocopy won’t do, you’ll need one with an official raised emblem or seal.
If you don’t have a certified version of your birth certificate, contact the vital statistics office of the state where you were born. For contact information, visit the National Center for Health Statistics website.
Step 3: Get photos
Get your photo taken. Most photo places can do it for under $10 with no appointment. You’ll need two 2' x 2' identical shots taken within the past six months.
Step 4: Locate passport agency
Locate the passport agency nearest you by entering your zip code into a search on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Many agencies now only take passport applications by appointment, so call before you go.
If you are traveling within two weeks and need a passport right away, you’ll have to make an appointment at a regional office. Call 1-877-487-2778.
Step 5: Head to office w/ materials
Head to the office with your certified birth certificate, a photo ID (like your driver’s license), two passport photos, your application, and the fee. You’ll sign the application in front of the passport service representative.
Step 6: Sit back and wait
Sit back and wait. You’ll get your passport in about 4 to 6 weeks via U.S. mail—or sooner if you paid to have it expedited. You can track the status of your application on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Step 7: Get on the plane
Now get on that plane and go—paradise awaits!