Carelessness is the number one reason for a passport application being rejected or delayed or for a passport being lost, stolen, or damaged.
What steps are necessary to prevent these things from occurring? How can you take care of your passport? Below are 16 practical tips you can follow to acquire your passport, keep it in your possession, and preserve it in good condition.
Before You Leave On Your Trip
- Check to find out if you even need a passport.
Countries can, and often do, change foreign entry requirements. If you arrive at the airport without the required documents, you’ll be denied boarding privileges. And, of course, This isn’t covered by travel insurance.
Currently, more than 80 percent of the world’s countries require a valid passport for entry. It is important to verify the foreign entry requirements for the country you plan to visit as early as you can.
For a renewal, begin the process 8 to 11 months before your passport expires. Many countries require that your passport have six to eight months of validity remaining before they will issue a visa.
- Complete the correct form correctly.
Each type of passport service has specific criteria that must be met. Make certain you get the perfect application form, then fill it in carefully. Double-check each entry. Errors made on the application form can lead to delays, or even rejection of your passport request.
When applying for a new passport, the most frequently used documents are a certified birth certificate for proof of citizenship along with a valid driver’s license for proof of your identity.
Your birth certificate must be a certified copy with a registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office, which must be within 1 year of your birth. No photocopies are accepted. Your driver’s license must be more than six months old.
To be valid, it can’t be mutilated, altered, or damaged in any way.
You have to send two identical passport photos taken within the previous 6 months. They have to be a full-face view with the head being from 1 to 1 3/8 inches from the chin to the top of the head. The photos can be either colour or black and white.
- Sign both the passport application form along with your check.
Surprisingly, many people forget to sign either the passport application form or their check to Passport Services. Once again, check everything twice, or even three times.
- Request additional pages.
Are you a frequent flyer? Request a 48-page passport (at no additional cost).
- Sign your passport and fill out the emergency information.
When your passport arrives, check to see that all the information contained in it is correct. If it is, sign it and fill in your current address and the name of a person to contact in the event of emergency. If not, return it to the State Department for correction.
Give one copy of your passport to a friend or relative that can be easily contacted in case of an emergency. Take the other copy and the extra photos with you on your journey. If you use an online document storage service, you can scan your passport and upload a copy. This way, you can access it from almost anywhere in the world.
While You’re Away
- Always keep your passport in a safe location!
Never leave your passport in your baggage, backpack, purse, car, hotel room, or anywhere else! When you must carry your passport, keep it in a money belt or inside coat pocket. Upon arrival at the hotel, put your passport in the hotel safe.
- Never lay your passport down anywhere.
Passports placed on a counter, phone booth or table can be easily forgotten or stolen. Practice the habit of immediately putting your passport away after using it.
- If you travel as a family or as part of a group, don’t let one person carry all the passports.
The odds are much greater for one person carrying all the passports to lose them or have them stolen than for all the passports to be stolen or lost if each individual owner carries them.
- Never let anyone leave your presence with your passport.
When you are checking in at the airport, passing through customs, exchanging currency, or doing anything else that requires you to show your passport, never allow the person examining your passport to leave your presence. If the person starts to leave, call their attention and request to accompany them.
Law enforcement records show that U.S. passports are sometimes used for unlawful entry into the United States or by criminals abroad seeking to establish another identity. You would be pretty embarrassed if your name were associated with illegal activities.
- Immediately report the loss of your passport.
If you’re careful and follow the tips above, you shouldn’t have any issue with the loss of your passport.
If it does occur though, immediately notify the local police and then proceed to the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Take the copy of your passport and extra photos with you. You’ll be issued a temporary passport that you can replace upon returning to the United States.
After You Return
- Schedule your passport renewal.
Check the expiration date and make a reminder to renew your passport at the proper time. Bear in mind, you should begin the process 8 to 11 months prior to the expiration date. Put the reminder somewhere where it won’t be forgotten.
- Check the amount of blank pages remaining.
Some countries require a blank page for their visa. If you plan a future trip on which you may visit various countries, you may need the exact same number of pages as countries to be visited.
If you don’t have an adequate number of pages but your passport isn’t due for renewal, you can request additional pages.
- Store your passport in a safe location.
For those who have a safe in your house, keep your passport there. If not, consider a safety deposit box at your local bank.
Follow the practical tips above and you can easily avoid passport problems and more fully enjoy your international travels.