Cover Story

Passport Services

Nothing is more enjoyable than knowing a vacation is around the corner, and nothing is more disappointing than forget­ting an important “to-do” before heading on your way. If your travel plans will take you outside of the United States, a pass­port is a must! If you already have a passport, remember to check the expiration dates of your entire family’s passports well in advance of your departure date. U.S. passports are issued to adults for 10 years and to children under the age of 16 for 5 years. This means that even though your passport may be valid, your child (who may now be a 20-year-old adult) could be carrying an expired passport. This happens more times than we care to think about, and often results in a last-minute trip to a passport agency and the additional payment of a $60 expedite fee.

The Department of State’s Passport Services Directorate issues passports to U.S. citizens. In fiscal year 2010, approxi­mately 13.9 million U.S. passports were issued, and the demand for passports will continue due to stricter travel regulations that require a U.S. passport book, a U.S. passport card, or other documents approved by the Department of Homeland Security ( for entry into the United States.

Which passport product best suits your needs — the passport book or the passport card?

The passport book provides the traveler with the identification and proof of citizenship to travel anywhere in the world, by any conveyance — in other words, it can be used for all international travel, whether by air, land, or sea.

The passport card is a travel document that can be used for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Carib­bean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. It cannot be used for international air travel. The wallet-size passport card is convenient and less expensive than the passport book and was designed for those that make frequent trips across the borders. Travelers considering applying for the passport card should check the document requirements of the countries to be visited, as some may not accept the passport card for entry.

Whether you plan to apply for a passport book, passport card (or both!), submitting your passport application is a quick trip away. With thousands of Post Office™ locations that accept passport applications, the U.S. Postal Service® makes is convenient to apply for your passport. Visit to locate a Post Office near you that offers passport services.

Passport Tips

You can always get information by contacting the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 or TDD/TTY 888-874-7793 or online at

n Before traveling abroad make a copy of the identification page in case your passport is lost or stolen.

n If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, report the loss immediately to local police authorities and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

n Before you travel, check for U.S. Department of State travel warnings at

n Register your trip with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate through STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) at