Seven years ago, the year before I moved out of New York, I obtained my first adult passport. A United States passport is one of the most powerful documents one can hold and it gives you open access to hundreds of amazing countries. Yet it seems that many Americans take for granted that the world is their oyster.
I got my first passport when I was a child living in Guam. We traveled across Asia to Japan, China, and the Philippines. It was that early experience with exploring unknown lands and unfamiliar cultures that sparked my interest in traveling. Once we returned to the mainland when I was around 11 years old I didn’t venture out of the country again until 2018. Let me share with you how I got my adult passport.
In 2012 I stumbled upon the Passport Party Project, a grassroots effort led by fellow California native Tracey Friley. Tracey put out a call for bloggers to attend the annual Passport Day in New York. At the time I was publishing a blog called Uptownflavor and I thought that it would be great for my readers to learn how to go about obtaining a passport. I attended the tour on March 10 and applied for my passport that same day. A week later I had my passport in my hand. It had been processed in only 3 days!
One recommendation offered by the State Department personnel is to get your passport during what is considered the slow season. If you wait until right before summer break or the holidays when most people travel then you are setting yourself up for unnecessary frustration. I wrote about my experience touring the passport facility and getting my passport on Black Atlas and Examiner.com (both are now sadly defunct online publications.)
By participating in the Passport Party Project and Passport Day, I learned that the number of Americans traveling internationally is significantly lower than citizens of other countries like the UK and Canada. The good news is that the number of Americans holding a valid passport has increased and the numbers continue to steadily climb each year. Sadly the number of African Americans with a passport is still relatively low.
How to get a passport
At this point you’re probably wondering how you can you get your first passport. You can do as I did and attend one of the many acceptance events in your area. Find one near you by clicking on the link.
What you should bring:
- A completed DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport form that can be found at the Department of State website https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html. Do not sign the form until the passport agent tells you.
- Proof of U.S. citizenship (an original birth certificate)
- Proof of identity (valid driver’s license, government employee ID, military ID).
- Photocopies of U.S. citizenship and identification documents (these will be sent with the application, but bring originals for proof documentation).
- Appropriate payment. Acceptable forms of payment can be found on the Department of State website.
- Appropriate passport photo. Follow the guidelines carefully.
Passport applications for children under 16 have special requirements. Visit travel.state.gov for more information.
How much does it cost?
I recommend only getting the passport book. I ordered both the card and book but the passport book is the only document that allows me to travel anywhere in the world. It should cost you $145.00 and it is worth the investment because it doesn’t expire for 10 years. You could think of it as spending $14.50 each year to have full access to the world.
When and how did you get your first passport? Share your passport story in the comments section. Remember to like, share, and subscribe for more travel related content.