By Stacy Gray

Do I Need a Passport and How Do I Get One?

Picture of Passport

YES! You will need a passport if you are flying internationally and if you are cruising to and from foreign ports.

Passports are required for U.S. citizens whose cruise embarks or disembarks in a foreign country, including Canada. In addition, passports are required for sailings that begin and end in different U.S. ports. There are certain shore excursions that require a passport for day trips to smaller Caribbean islands and in Alaska to do the White Pass and Yukon Railway train ride. It is also a good idea to verify the individual ports’ entry requirements, because you might need to obtain a visa.

So the first step in planning your next getaway is making sure you have proper documentation to travel abroad. Let’s talk about how to apply for a passport?

My best advice is to apply early! Apply for your passport several months before your trip and know your expiration date. If you live in Raleigh, NC you can call (919) 420-5343 to schedule an appointment at one of the post offices.

Passport processing can take about 6-8 weeks unless you pay to have an expedited service for an additional $60 dollars.

Visit the government’s website to get the application and the latest information about cost. You can also call the US Passport Service Guide at 1-877-487-2778 to speak with a customer service representative.

Once you’ve completed the application, locate a local passport acceptance facility which can be a post office, some public libraries or clerk of court office. Be aware that many acceptance facilities have limited operating hours and require an appointment so be sure to call before going.

Passport applications take 4 to 6 weeks to process unless you request expedited service. Then, it takes 2 to 3 weeks. Some facilities require an appointment or have limited hours so do your homework ahead of time before dropping by.

In North Carolina the fee for a passport is $110 for adults plus a $60 execution fee and for children younger than 16 years old $80 plus the $60 execution fee.

If your passport hasn’t already expired you can renew your passport by mail using application DS-82 if you meet the criteria listed on the U.S. Department of State web site;

  • Your passport is not significantly damaged and can be submitted with the application
  • It was issued when you were age 16 or older
  • It was issued within the past 15 years
  • It was issued in your current name or you can legally document your name change

There are few supporting documents that are required. First of all, you must send your most recent valid or expired passport. Your passport will be invalidated and returned to you. If it is damaged or mutilated in any way, you cannot use this form but, rather, must appear in person to apply. You also need to submit a recent passport photo that has dimensions of 2 inches by 2 inches.

Applicants whose names have been legally changed need to submit evidence of this fact. Acceptable documents to prove a legal name change include a marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption certificate or court order. The document you submit must be an original or a certified copy. It will be returned to you.

If you do not meet the criteria, you cannot apply to renew your passport by mail. You need to submit the application for a new U.S. passport utilizing the Form DS-11 and supporting documents in person at an application acceptance facility.

How much does it cost to get a passport in North Carolina?

Payment for the passport (only) fee of either $110 (adult) plus a $60 execution fee, or $80 (younger than 16 years old) plus a $60 execution fee. Payment for the passport card (and book) fee of either $140 (adult) plus a $60 execution fee, or $95 (younger than 16 years old) plus a $60 execution fee.

To enter the United States at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda, you can use a passport book or a passport card. A passport card is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book, but it cannot be used for international travel by air.

You can renew your current or expired U.S. passport unless your passport was:

  • Issued before your 16th birthday
  • Issued 15 or more years ago
  • Damaged, lost, or stolen
  • Issued in your previous name and you don’t have a legal document like a marriage license to prove your legal name change

Need to get a passport quickly in two weeks or less, then you will need to have your passport renewal expedited and pay additional fees. Start by calling the National Passport Information Center to make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency. For an automated appointment system available 24 hours a day, call 1-877-487-2778.

At your appointment, you’ll need to provide proof of immediate travel, and pay an expedited fee.

All children must apply or reapply for a U.S. passport in person at a passport agency and must be accompanied by BOTH parents! Children under 16 need parental consent and their parents must be present with their children and co-sign the application.

Children ages 16-17 applying for a passport can do it by themselves if they have their own identification documents. However, it is recommended that at least one parent appears in person with the child to show parental awareness.

Hope this gives you some good guidelines for beginning your vacation plans.

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