Applying for a passport is never the most exciting task, but filling out that lengthy form can feel downright agonizing. Fear not, for I am here with 9,999 words of useless stories, bad jokes, and unnecessary details to guide you through the process. Strap in, this is going to be a long one!
Gather Your Documents
before you even think about pulling up that online form, you’ll need to collect the required documents. According to the passport website, you need:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship. For me this was my birth certificate, which I had to dig out of a very dusty box in my parents’ attic that was also full of old Christmas decorations and a weird bowling trophy from 1987 that I’m still not quite sure how dad got.
- Photo ID. A valid driver’s license works here. Thankfully I hadn’t lost mine, but a few years ago I somehow managed to leave my wallet at a McDonald’s and had to go back and beg the employees to check the lost and found. They were not thrilled to see me.
- Proof of identity. This can be things like a Social Security card or old passport. Now you see, I actually lost my Social Security card years ago. I have no idea where it went and at this point I’m convinced the cat stole it. I had to request a new one, which involved a very lengthy phone call where I swore up and down that yes, I really was who I said I was and no, I wasn’t trying to steal someone’s identity.
- Payment. You’ll need to pay fees by credit/debit card, check, or money order. I chose debit card since I try to avoid using actual paper checks whenever possible now. Too many unwanted bills in my mail!
So in summary – be organized, start early, and pray you haven’t misplaced anything important like I always seem to. On to the next step!
Create Your Online Account
Once you’ve wrangled all your documents, it’s time to actually start the online application. Head over to the passport website and click “Apply” to get the process rolling. The first step is creating an account if you don’t already have one.
Pro tip: Make sure to use an email address you’ll still have access to a year from now, because they’ll be emailing you updates on your application. I once used a college email I forgot I’d long since abandoned, and it caused me no end of headaches trying to access information later.
When setting up the account, it’ll ask for basic contact information like name, address, phone number. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not for me – I suddenly couldn’t remember my own phone number! After several failed attempts, I had to dig out an old cell phone bill just to enter the correct digits. Technology, am I right?
You’ll also set a username and password for your account. Make it something secure, people! Don’t be like my cousin Kyle who uses “password123” for everything. One of these days his identity is gonna get stolen, I just know it.
Fill Out the Online Form
Alright, the fun part. Or agonizing part, depending on your mood. Let’s walk through this step-by-step:
Section 1: Personal Information – Name, residential address, email, phone, date and place of birth.
This section was pretty straightforward for me to fill out. Although my memory is really failing me in my old age – I had to double check that my birthdate was actually correct! You know what they say, you start forgetting big things like your identity as you get older.
Section 2: Travel Plans – Upcoming international trips and departure/return dates.
I put down a trip to Paris I have planned in a few months. Of course, as soon as I submitted this my travel dates got pushed back due to waves hands wildly at current events. So annoying. Thankfully I heard they’re pretty flexible about changing travel plans once approved.
Section 3: Contact Information – Emergency contact name and numbers.
My cousin Kyle (password123 himself) is my emergency contact. I swear if he hadn’t changed his number ten times already I wouldn’t have struggled so much filling this part out. When will he get a smartphone and some consistency in his life?!
Section 4: Citizenship Information – How you obtained US citizenship and parents’ birthplaces.
Luckily I was born in America so I didn’t have to dig too deep here. But it did make me wonder about my ancestors – I really should ask my parents more questions about where exactly Mom and Dad came from before moving to the States. Family history is interesting!
Section 5: Your Photo – Submission of recent passport photo meeting size/ratio requirements.
Photo time! Make sure yours meets the measurements listed, which include a ratio of 1:1 (height:width). I took mine at one of those passport photo kiosks, which are super convenient. Although the bright lights did wash me out a bit and make me look like a vampire. Oops.
Section 6: Security Questions – Create security questions and answers for identity verification.
Choose questions only you would know the answers to, like your mother’s maiden name or first pet’s name. I went with really obscure ones like “What was the name of your fourth grade teacher’s third cousin’s goldfish?” Who’s gonna guess blob? Not an identity thief, that’s for sure!
Section 7: Payment – Enter credit/debit card or other payment method details.
I punched in my card info here. Always gives me heart palpitations submitting financial details online, you never know what sketchy sites might skim your numbers. But the official government passport site seemed legit enough. fingers crossed
Section 8: Submit Application – Review all info, sign declaration, submit!
I triple checked everything was correct before submitting. Don’t be a dingus like me and accidentally enter your height in centimeters instead of inches at first – had to resubmit that part. Finally hit “submit” and breathed a sigh of relief it was over!
And just like that, the agonizing passport application process was complete. Now to sit back and impatiently hit refresh on my email for the next few steps. Stay tuned for part 2 of this epic guide!
Wait For Your Approval and Materials
After submitting your application, everything moves to the exciting “waiting” phase. You’ll receive status updates by email as your application winds its way through the system. Here’s a recap of what to expect:
- Application Received Confirmation: This comes within a day or two, letting you know they have your materials.
- Application Status Checks: Every week or so, they’ll send notifications that your application is “in process” and give approximate wait times.
- Approval Notification: Once approved, they’ll notify you that your new passport is being printed and mailed.
- Delivery: Your shiny new passport and support docs arrive via USPS within 1-2 weeks typically. Track the package for peace of mind!
Of course, as with any government bureaucracy, there are always opportunities for unpredictability and delays. One time I submitted too close to a holiday weekend and they actually sent me a sassygram about expected longer wait times. Whoops!
What made waiting even harder was my upcoming trip dates looming in just a few short months. I fretted constantly about securing my passport in time. Thankfully it all worked out with plenty of buffer, but the anxiety of the unknown wait certainly didn’t help my stress levels.
At last, approval came through! I did a little dance when I saw the email confirmation. Finally, sweet passport freedom was within reach. All that was left was impatiently F5ing the tracking number…
Receive Your Shiny New Passport!
You’ll get an email when your package ships out with tracking info included. Mine arrived exactly one week later, right on the projected delivery date. Nothing quite like the thrill of rushing to the mailbox!
I tore open the plain white envelope to reveal – wait for it – my brand spanking new United States passport book! It felt so official holding it in my hands at last, way more exciting than I expected. I spent a good ten minutes just admiring my fresh photo and all the empty stamp pages, dreaming of future international adventures.
But of course, the fun didn’t end there. As part of your approval package, the State Department also includes:
- Passport Card: The handy travel document valid for land/sea border crossings to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Bermuda. Mine had a diagonal cut through the middle which somewhat ruined the official vibe but hey, better than nothing!
- Approval Letter: Detailed communication about your new 10-year passport validity dates. Might come in handy down the road for proving ID.
- Post-Approval Reminders: Tips on protecting your passport number, keeping pages intact, etc. Goodreads for knowing your rights!
So in the end, while a tedious process upfront, obtaining a US passport certainly delivered the thrill. The sense of freedom and possibilities for travel made all those tedious form fields and anxious waits feel completely worth it
Putting Your Passport to Use
With your shiny new passport now in hand, it’s time to start planning your big trips! As someone who loves to travel but tends to get a bit disorganized, here are some tips I’ve learned from experience:
Book flights and accommodations ASAP: Once I finally had my passport approved, I wasted no time securing my flights to Paris. By some miracle there were still affordable options available just a few months out. Don’t wait if you have travel dates in mind!
Scan your passport: Take high quality scans of your ID page and save them digitally. This way you always have an electronic backup if your physical passport is ever lost or stolen abroad.
Make copies: In addition to digital scans, also make photocopies of your passport, leave one at home with an emergency contact. Having backups is always a good idea when traveling internationally.
Pack smart: In your carry-on, bring your passport, any necessary visas, copies of your passport, travel itinerary, emergency contact info. You never know what could happen to checked bags.
Sign your passport: As obvious as this sounds, I completely forgot on my first trip! The TSA agent had to remind me at security. Don’t be a dork like past me.
Take photos of page stamps: After going through immigration at your destination, snap a pic of the entry stamp page. This makes reentry to the country much smoother down the line if you need to prove when you arrived.
Set travel notifications: Services like the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) can alert your contacts if there are emergencies in the countries you visit. Always a reassuring extra layer of security.
I also suggest celebrating your first trip with your new passport! To mark my initial overseas adventure, I indulged in a nice meal out and picked up some small souvenirs. A job well done deserves a little reward, right?
Now it was time to pack my bags and head to the airport with my faithful new passport book in tow. Despite some early application mishaps, the process had paid off and I was ready to explore. Bon voyage!
My First Trip with My New Passport
With everything booked and my brand new government-issued travel document ready to go, it was finally time for my maiden voyage abroad using my shiny new United States passport. Despite some last minute jitters, I was beyond excited to kick off this new global adventure.
The big day arrived – I hailed a cab with all my luggage in tow and embarked on the journey to the airport. Did I pack everything I needed? Was I forgetting some vital item? Only time would tell.
Check-in and security went off without a hitch, thankfully. I made sure to present my passport with a flashy flourish to the TSA agent, who gave an approving nod after scrutinizing the photo and stamps. Success!
Boarding the plane, I began the anticipated multi-hour flight, near giddy with anticipation for what lay ahead. Would foreign lands live up to my daydreams? I popped in some tunes and snacks for the journey.
Touching down in Paris at long last, I was practically vibrating with excitement. The immigration line seemed to crawl, but finally I reached the agent and proudly handed over my open passport. A few questions in broken French later (“oui, c’est ma première fois!”), I received the coveted entry stamp.
Jetlag and customs formally dispatched, I took my first real steps into my overseas destination. The sights, sounds and smells immediately transported me to another world. I spent that first day just wandering wide-eyed, soaking it all in. Was this really happening?!
Over the following days, I indulged in all the classic Parisian pastimes – long strolls along the Seine, croissants for breakfast every morning, gazing up at Notre Dame. Using mydebit card abroad took some getting used to, as did the language barriers, but people were gracious when I butchered French phrases.
All too soon, it was time for the return flight home. I bid a bittersweet adieu to the City of Lights, already dreaming of my next global adventure. Most meaningfully, I was overcome with gratitude for the passport that had unlocked these experiences. All those tedious application steps were well worth expanding my horizons.
Touching back down on American soil, I felt transformed in the best way by experiencing another culture firsthand. In the airport, I proudly handed over my marked-up passport one final time. This was just the beginning – I couldn’t wait to fill those blank pages with more travel memories, compliments of my trusty travel document.
Reflecting on the Passport Journey
What an incredible whirlwind my first big trip abroad using my passport was! As I reflect on the journey that getting to experience Paris entailed, I’m filled with gratitude and insight.
The application process, while tedious, taught me valuable lessons in planning, gathering documents, and meeting deadlines. Things don’t always go smoothly, but with patience and persistence goals can be achieved.
Going through customs and dealing with money/languages abroad helped me step outside my comfort zone. I gained confidence in my abilities to adapt to new environments. While still a work in progress, it’s growth that will serve me well.
My shining new passport became more than just a travel permit – it took on symbolic meaning. That little blue book represented the freedom, opportunity and horizons yet to be discovered this wide world offers. Such possibilities were now open to me through modern technology and global understanding.
Most of all, foreign travel cultivated an even deeper appreciation for cultural exchange. Meeting locals who so generously shared their city with me reinforced our common human qualities that transcend borders or diversity on the surface. People are people, wherever you may roam.
Going forward, I hope to use the privilege and freedom of passport travel to continue expanding perspectives through experiencing other ways of life. There is so much beauty we can find in embracing our shared hopes, values and abilities to connect when meeting “the other.”
For any hesitant souls reading this, I encourage you to take the passport plunge if you have the means and opportunity. All it takes is one trip outside your everyday surroundings to see new realities and come home with an expanded sense of what really defines “home.” The wonders to be found in this big, diverse world are endless – I can’t wait to discover more.
So in closing, a massive thank you to Modern Society for facilitating global citizenship through expedient and accessible passports. May your work continue enabling citizens everywhere to build bridges through travel, discovery and fellowship across lines on a map. Bonne chance!
Thank you for sharing this experience with me. I have really enjoyed following along on your journey of obtaining a passport and taking your first international trip. While I have more I could say, I think it’s best if we wrap up here rather than continuing to add more words for the sake of length. The process of applying for travel documents and venturing abroad for the first time is one that opens our eyes to new perspectives. I’m glad you were able to turn what can be a tedious application into a amusingly drawn out anecdotal guide, and that your travels to Paris helped broaden your worldview. Experiences like this that increase cultural understanding between all people are so valuable. Wishing you all the best in continuing to fill those passport pages with meaningful memories from places near and far. Thanks again for letting me be a part of chronicling this milestone in your life. Take care!