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By Joseph Stutzman

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joseph_Stutzman

Do you have your passport? This is probably the single most important item and the one that will take the longest to secure. Plan ahead and apply now. Learn how.

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Many cruises actually don’t need a passport, but the rule of thumb is better safe than sorry.  For example, any cruise that starts and ends at the same port in the U.S. does not require a passport. But, what if the port you were supposed to return to was wiped out or damaged by a hurricane and you had to disembark at another port? Would you find understanding and willing-to-bend-the-rules custom agents, or will you find a stickler that won’t let you leave the ship without the proper documentation and the promise to turn over your first born child?

It is definitely better to be safe, than sorry.

So, you’ve decided to go on a cruise.
If you’ve already booked your cruise, let’s hope it is at the least, one month away. Getting your passport will take time and a little bit of money. With much stricter security measures on the borders of all countries, the requests for passports have increased.

The average wait time to get a passport is between 4 and 6 weeks, unless you pay an additional hefty fee for expedited processing, for which you may get it in as little as 10 days. You can figure that if you have held a number of jobs, none of which were for the federal government, and have moved frequently, your passport will take longer to process. A thorough background check is completed. Renewals can be accomplished online and by mail, but new applicants must apply in person.

You MUST apply in person if:

  • You are applying for your first U.S. passport-or-
  • You are under age 16-or-
  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16-or-
  • Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged-or-
  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago (U.S. passports are valid for 10 years)-or-
  • Your name has changed since your U.S. passport was issued and you are unable to legally document your name change

You must also include proof of your U.S. citizenship. All documentation will be returned to you, either with your passport when it is mailed to you or under a separate mailing, but ONLY the following are considered viable evidence, though you must only have one of these:

  • A certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state
  • A previously issued, undamaged U.S. Passport
  • A Naturalization Certificate
  • A Certificate of Citizenship-or-
  • A Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth

If you have a previously issued, undamaged U.S. Passport or a Naturalization Certificate, that documentation will also serve as your Primary Identification.  If you do not, then you must also have additional verification of your identity in the form of:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • A current city, state or federal Government ID-or-

If you cannot present primary identification, then you must submit as much secondary identification as possible. These documents are not acceptable when presented alone, but may be accepted when presented together:

  • Social Security Card
  • Credit Card
  • Library Card
  • Employee ID
  • An Identifying Witness
    • Who is present at the time you fill out the application
    • Who has known you for at least 2 years
    • Who can prove they are a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident
    • Who has a valid primary ID-and-
    • Who is willing to fill out and sign the Affidavit of Identifying Witness (DS-71) in front of the Passport Agent.

The fees are not cheap.
There are both a Passport Card and a Passport Book. The card can be used to enter the U.S. from Bermuda, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. It is much more convenient to carry and easier to hang onto and less expensive than a Passport Book. The card though, is NOT valid for international air travel.For adults: the passport card is valid for 10 years. The first time applicant will pay $45. If you are a previous passport holder, then the cost is $20. For minors (under the age of 16), the card is valid for 5 years and will cost $35.

Fees:

  • Adult Passport Book & Card $95 same for renewal
  • Adult Passport Book $75 same for renewal
  • Adult Passport Card $45 $20 for renewal

Applicants will also pay an Execution Fee of $25 per passport book or card. The book or card fee and the execution fee must be paid on separate receipts and few agencies will accept cash.  For applicants in the U.S., you may pay an additional fee of $60 for expedited service. Additionally, all applicants are strongly urged to pay an additional $14.96 for Overnight Delivery for each application. You also have one more option if you are unable to present evidence of citizenship-you can pay $60 for a File Search. This is only to verify a previous U.S. Passport or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes money. And in today’s environment you will not find much sympathy for not having the proper documentation or for a lost passport or passport card.

  • Run copies of your passport documentation, to include the passport card or book.
  • Keep one copy of everything with you and one copy of everything at home in a safe place.
  • Do NOT keep it in a safe deposit box.  If, for example, you are robbed on a cruise ship, you want someone at home to have easy access to this documentation. You may have to have it faxed to the ship or the port.

And plan ahead.
It may take weeks just to order your Certified Copy of your Birth Certificate. This copy must have a raised seal of certification issued by the legal authority in the city, state or county where you were born. You can send in your original, of course, but it is not recommended.

In fact, if you are even thinking about a future cruise, I would get my paperwork in order and apply now. This will ensure that you already have your passport in place and you can concentrate on the more important details, like where you want to go and what you want to see.

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Filed under: Traveler Tips

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