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10 Tips for U.S. Passport Applicants

by Barbara Gillam
April 16, 2008

Passport StampsWith the busiest travel season coming up soon, millions of Americans will be trying to get passports. In 2007, applicants had to wait two to three months to receive the passports from the U.S. Passport Agency.

David Alwadish, a passport expert who has owned a passport and visa-expediting service and more recently website:, for some 30 years, offers the following tips for first-time and experienced travelers.

Passport10 Tips for U.S. Passport Applicants

  1. Apply for a passport at an authorized post office well in advance. Urgent? Log onto and use the services of this passport expediter.
  2. Only original photos with white backgrounds are accepted by the Passport Agency. No copies or digitally-scanned photos are allowed.
  3. Dress appropriately for a photo. No hats, scarves or sunglasses are allowed, unless required for health or religious reasons.
  4. Keep in mind that many countries insist that your passport must be valid for six months beyond the end of your trip.
  5. Be aware that some countries-like South Africa-insist on as many as three empty "Visa" pages in your passport. "Amendments and Endorsements" pages will not do.
  6. Frequent travelers can ask for a 48-page document when applying for a new passport, or can have additional pages added to an old passport.
  7. Yes, you do need a passport for a baby-even a newborn-if flying abroad, or a passport card if traveling by land or sea to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean.
  8. Passport StampsNote that a child's passport (under 16 years of age) is only valid for five years, though an adult's is valid for ten years.
  9. Both parents (mother and father if named on the birth certificate, even if divorced) must sign the application forms for a child's passport, unless one parent can prove sole custody.
  10. Always carry a copy of the picture page of your passport. If you lose your passport in a foreign country, showing this copy to the U.S. Embassy will speed up the replacement.

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