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You need to bring two identical 2-by-2 inch, full-face, front-view photographs, and a completed DS-11 application form (available from one of 6,000 facilities or at http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html)
In addition, you will need a driver's license or government-issued ID card and proof of citizenship, which in most cases, is an original or certified birth certificate.
All children under age 14 must also apply for a passport in person, and both parents or legal guardians must appear together and sign child's form (if second parent submits a notarized letter of intent, one parent signature is adequate). Minors age 14 to 17 must also appear in person and for security reasons, parental consent may be required. And, unlike adults, children under 14 must apply for renewals in person.
For Americans 16 and older, a first passport costs $97 and is good for 10 years. Children under age of 16 require their own passport which cost $82 and are valid for five years. Renewals, which can be done by mail, are $67 for both adults and children.
One of most often asked questions, "When should I apply for a passport?" has a simple answer--several months before your planned trip. If you will need visas from foreign embassies to enter those countries, allow even more time. Don't wait to get a passport! Get it now, so you will be ready in case you may need or want to travel on short notice. The average time from application to passport arrival is six to eight weeks, and passport demand goes up during summer months, so plan accordingly.
When you receive your passport, remember to sign it in ink and print your name and address so it may be returned to you if it is ever lost.
Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently V.P. of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., an Internet business providing valuable information on a variety of timely topics. For an embassy full of advice, resources and suggestions about passports, visit http://www.PassportPlace.com