Applying for a Passport

A passport is a small booklet that serves as an official form of identification as you travel internationally.  A United States passport is only available to citizens of the USA.  Non-U.S. citizens are eligible for a passport from their country of citizenship.  For more information, CLICK HERE

New Application for a U.S. Passport
To obtain a passport for the first time, you need to go in person to one of  7,000 passport acceptance facilities (many Federal, state and probate courts, post offices, some public libraries and a number of county and municipal offices) located throughout the United States with two photographs of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as a driver's license. There are also 13 regional agencies which serve customers who are traveling within 2 weeks or who need foreign visas for travel. Appointments are required in such cases.

You'll need to apply in person if you are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time; if your expired U.S. passport is not in your possession; if your previous U.S. passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago; if your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under 16; if you have changed your name; or if your currently valid U.S. passport has been lost, stolen, altered or damaged.

Renewal of a U.S. Passport
      You can renew by mail if: Your most recent passport is available to submit and it is not damaged; you received the passport within the past 15 years; you were over age 16 when it was issued; you still have the same name, or can legally document your name change.

You can get a passport renewal application form by downloading it HERE

Applying for a Visa
A visa is a stamp or document that grants a person permission to be in a foreign country for a period of time.  In addition to a valid passport, in some countries where you will travel, you will need a visa stamped in your passport to allow you passage in and out of the country for the time of your trip. Visas must be applied for, and the application requires two passport-sized pictures for it to be processed.  If a visa is required, obtain it from the appropriate foreign consular representative before proceeding abroad. Allow sufficient time for processing your visa application, especially if you are applying by mail. Most foreign consular representatives are located in principal cities, and in many instances, a traveler may be required to obtain visas from the consular office in the area of his/her residence. It is the responsibility of the traveler to obtain visas, where required, from the appropriate embassy or nearest consulate of the country you are planning to visit.

As soon as you receive your visa, check it to make sure no mistakes were made. Processing and visa fees vary, and most fees may not be refundable. For specific details, consult the Embassy or Consulate of the country you plan to visit.

Immunizations
Under the International Health Regulations adopted by the World Health Organization, a country may require International Certificates of Vaccination against yellow fever, especially if you are traveling from an area of the world that is infected with yellow fever. Prophylactic medication for malaria and certain other preventive measures are advisable for travel to some countries. No immunizations are required to return to the United States. Detailed health information may be obtained from your local healthcare provider or by contacting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telephone 1-800-232-4636 or CLICK HERE

AIDS/HIV Testing
An increasing number of countries have established regulations regarding AIDS testing, particularly for long-term visitors. Check with the Embassy or Consulate of the country that you plan to visit to verify if this is a requirement for entry.

Additional Fees
All international flights are subject to U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs fees paid in advance as part of your ticket. Many airlines are also charging for your checked luggage. In addition, many countries have departure fees that are sometimes collected at the time of ticket purchase or upon exiting the foreign country.

Tips For Traveling Abroad  (from the US Department of State)

If you are traveling abroad here are the top 10 tips you need to make your trip easier:

  1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport!
  2. Read the Consular Information Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the countries you plan to visit.
  3. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, the U.S. Constitution does not follow you! While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.

      Consider getting a telephone calling card. Verify that you can use it from your        overseas location(s). Find out your access number before you go.

  1. Make two copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport.
  2. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  3. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas. Do not accept packages from strangers.
  4. Prior to your departure, you should register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration website . Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency.
  5. To avoid being a target of crime, try not to wear conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.
  6. In order to avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or purchase art or antiques.
  7. If you get into trouble, contact the nearest U.S. embassy.

Before You Go. . .

What to Bring
Dress conservatively. Don't wear expensive looking jewelry. A flashy wardrobe or one that is too casual can mark you as a tourist.

Always travel light so you can move more quickly, be less tired and less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it unattended. Carry the minimum amount of valuables necessary for your trip.

Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe.  One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.

If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. Bring them and any medicines you need in your carry-on luggage.

Keep medicines in their original, labeled containers. Bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs. If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug. If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country first.

Bring travelers checks and one or two major credit cards instead of cash.

Pack an extra set of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport information page to make replacement of your passport easier in the event it is lost or stolen.

Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside each piece of luggage.

What to Leave Behind
Don't bring anything you would hate to lose. Leave at home:

  1. Valuable or expensive-looking jewelry,
  2. Irreplaceable family objects,
  3. All unnecessary credit cards,
  4. Social Security card, library card, other items you may routinely carry in your wallet.

     Leave copies of your itinerary and passport with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.

What to Learn About Before You Go

Security
The Department of State's Consular Information Sheets are available for every country of the world. They describe entry requirements, currency regulations, unusual health conditions, the crime and security situation, political disturbances, areas of instability, and special information about driving and road conditions. They also provide addresses and emergency telephone numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates. These do not give advice but describe conditions so travelers can make informed decisions. These are available at HERE

In some dangerous situations, the Department of State will recommend that Americans defer travel to a country and a Travel Warning is issued in addition to its Consular Information Sheet. Public Announcements give information about short-term or trans-national conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travelers. They are issued when there is a perceived threat, even if Americans are not a target group.

You can access Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements 24-hours a day in several ways:

Internet.  The most convenient source of information about travel and consular services is the Consular Affairs home page.  The web site address is http://travel.state.gov. If you do not have access to the Internet, your local library may provide it.

Telephone.  The Overseas Citizens Services at 1-202-647-5225 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

By Mail/In Person.  These are available at regional passport agencies, U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, or, by writing and sending a self-addressed, stamped business size envelope to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818.

Local Laws and Customs. When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country where you are. Before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs. Keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent developments in those countries as well.

The Department of State publishes Background Notes on countries worldwide. These are brief, factual pamphlets with information on each country's culture, history, geography, economy, government, and current political situation. The Background Notes are available for approximately 170 countries. They often include a reading list, travel notes and maps. Select issues are available from the Department of State's home page on the Internet at http://www.state.gov.

Things To Arrange Before You Go 

Your Hotel.   Safety experts recommend booking a room from the second to seventh floors above ground level to deter easy entrance from outside, but low enough for fire equipment to reach.

Legal Documents. Have your affairs at home in order. Leave a current will, insurance documents, and power of attorney with your family or a friend.

Credit. Notify your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling abroad. Note the credit limit on each card that you bring. Do not to charge over that amount. Ask how to report the loss of your card from abroad where 800 numbers do not work

Insurance. Find out if your personal property insurance covers you for loss or theft abroad. Check on whether your health insurance covers you abroad. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide payment for medical care outside the U.S. Normal health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation from a remote area or country where medical facilities are inadequate. Consider purchasing short-term health and emergency assistance policies designed for travelers that includes medical evacuation in the event of an accident or serious illness.

Precautions To Take While Traveling

Safety on the Street
Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home. Be cautious in or avoid areas where you are likely to be victimized including crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and marginal areas of cities.

  1. Don't use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly-lit streets. Try not to travel alone at night.
  2. Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  3. Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
  4. Avoid scam artists. Beware of strangers offering bargains or to be your guide.
  5. Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will:jostle you,
  6. ask you for directions or the time,
  7. point to something spilled on your clothing, or distract you by creating a disturbance.
  8. Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
  9. Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority.
  10. Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.
  11. Learn a few phrases in the local language so you can signal your need for help, the police, or a doctor.
  12. Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  13. If you are confronted, don't fight back. Money and passport can be replaced; you cannot.

Safety in Your Hotel
Keep your hotel door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.
Do not leave money and valuables in your hotel room while out. Use the hotel safe.
Let someone know when you expect to return if you are out late at night.
If you are alone, do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside.
Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room. Know how to report a fire. Know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located. Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit in case you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.

Safety on Public Transportation 
If a country has a pattern of tourists being targeted by criminals on public transport, that is mentioned in the Consular   Information Sheets under the "Crime Information" section. 

Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings. Beware of unmarked cabs. 
Well organized robbery of passengers on trains and buses along popular tourist routes is a serious problem, more common at night and especially on overnight trains. Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Where possible, lock your compartment. If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage, strap your valuables to you and sleep on top of them as much as possible. Alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way.

  Safety When You Drive 
When you rent a car, choose a type commonly available and ask that markings that identify it as a rental car be removed. Make sure it is in good repair. If available, choose a car with universal door locks and power windows, features that give the driver better control of car. An air conditioner is also a safety feature, allowing you to drive with windows closed. Keep car doors locked at all times. Wear seat belts.

As much as possible, avoid driving at night. Don't leave valuables in the car. If you must, keep them out of sight locked in the trunk. If you must park your car on the street overnight, select a well-lit area. Never pick up hitchhikers. Don't get out of the car if there are suspicious looking individuals nearby. Drive away. In cities around the world, "defensive driving" has come to mean more than avoiding auto accidents; it means keeping an eye out for potentially criminal pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.

How to Handle Money Safely
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Change your travelers' checks only as you need currency and countersign them only in front of the person who will cash them. 
Do not show large amounts of money when paying a bill. Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market.

If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation of your plight. After reporting missing items to the police, report the loss or theft of:

  1. Travelers' checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company,
  2. Credit cards to the issuing company,
  3. Airline tickets to the airline or travel agent,
  4. Passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

How to Avoid Legal Difficulties
When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and are under its jurisdiction NOT the protection of the U.S. Constitution. You can be arrested overseas for actions that may be either legal or considered minor infractions in the United States. Be aware of what is considered criminal in the country where you are. Consular Information Sheets include information on unusual patterns of arrests in countries when appropriate.

Photography
In many countries you can be harassed or detained for photographing such things as police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs.