2011 Study Abroad Tour: Applying For A Passport

February 9, 2011 at 12:55 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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Entry #2 — Applying For A Passport

Having a passport is like having a “ticket to the entire world.” When I got my passport last summer, just holding it in my hands for the first time made me feel like I had access to anywhere in the word, and to an extent, I do. At the time, I hadn’t officially applied to Keimyung University, the school I will be attending in a few weeks, but I knew before I got too far into the application process that I was going to need my passport. A lot of people have had the privilege to travel outside the US and may already have their passport, but if you’re like me and have lived for 22-years in the same part of the country, you probably don’t have one.  In short — if you are a student who is thinking about studying abroad and you don’t already have a passport, this should be a high priority on your to-do list.

While applying for one is easier than getting a visa for particular countries, it’s not as simple as filling out a piece of paper and mailing it off. A website provided by the U.S. government known as Travel.State.Gov (http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html) lists off the “steps” of applying in a fairly simple fashion and it’s your best guide to reference.

In the case of a first-time passport applicant, you have to collect and fill out a number of documents that MUST be presented and sent off in person.

1. Your first step should be filling out a DS-11 form. The form can be found on the website above. It basically just asks for standard information, such as your name, home address, date of birth, social security number and so on. Once you’ve filled out the form in its entirety, you then print it out and keep it in a safe place for the time being.

2. The next thing you will need is your birth certificate for proof of your U.S. citizenship. While some other documents can be used as substitutes for this step, such as early school records, your best bet is finding your legitimate birth certificate for the most trouble-free situation. One important note is that you must present your legitimate birth certificate and NOT a copy.

3. You need to have some identification ready to be presented upon sending these documents off. The most common answer to this is a driver’s license, but a military ID or a government ID will work if necessary.

4. Whatever identification you are using for the previous step (Step 3), make a copy of it. Just scan it and print it out. While you only “present” your driver’s license when you turn these documents in, a copy of your driver’s license (or a substitute) must be sent off.

5. You’re going to way to pay the passport fee IN CASH. I learned this the hard way. As of right now, a passport book and card for an adult is $165 dollars when totaled together. I expected to be able to pay with my debit card, but the kind receptionist at the courthouse that I submitted these documents informed me that you can only pay by cash. I had to leave my documents there and run to the nearest ATM to make a withdrawal.

6. You need to provide two passport-size photos. My recommendation is to go the nearest Walgreens and just tell them you need two passport photos. They specialize in this, and will take your photo with the proper background and print them on the spot. Just make sure you don’t wear a hat or any special uniform. You do have to pay a small price, but this is much less complicated than taking the photos yourselves and cutting them (on correct paper) to the accurate size.

The final step is to find a location where you can submit all these documents and actually apply for a passport (http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/). In my case, I brought my completed DS-11 form, birth certificate, driver’s license, a copy of my driver’s license, $165 dollars in cash, and two “2-x-2-inch” passport photos. Everything except for my actual driver’s license, which I only needed to show, was sent off and processed.

The waiting time for a passport to be processed can take anywhere from four to six weeks. In my situation, I applied sometime in late June and received my passport in the mail along with my birth certificate in early August. If you need for the passport to be processed quicker because you are departing the country unexpectedly, you can pay an extra fee and hopefully get your documents back sooner. More information, along with any other circumstances I didn’t go over, can likely be found at Travel.State.Gov.

Getting a passport is a huge step in traveling. I can’t describe how cool it is to open that little blue book and see my face on that glossy peace of paper with a printing of the preamble to the United States Constitution. I recently had to send my passport off for a few weeks to get a student visa. I ran into a few complications with that process, but my passport is safely back in my hands, ready to depart with me.

I officially leave the country in late February, likely around the 25th. I hope my early “entries” about my studying abroad experience have proved to be somewhat beneficial to anyone out there, considering I haven’ even left the country yet. As for what happens next? I really don’t know what to expect, but this isn’t the last you’ll hear of me and my experience.

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