Ok, so most people who decide to move to another country typically visit it first. We are not most people. It's not like we didn't want to, but that would have been 1000's of dollars we didn't have. We were living paycheck to paycheck, considering filing bankruptcy, and the credit score was not looking good. The only way we would be able to afford this move was by selling our house. So we said screw it and let's let google be our guide. If you know us as a couple, this wouldn't surprise you. We literally moved in together after 1 month of knowing each other. We met while he was working on the road; he quit his job and moved here from Montana. Fast-forward 9 years, and we are still together, so leaping can work out.
Anyways, because we could never afford to go overseas, we didn't have passport books. I had a passport card for when I went to Cancun 10+years ago, so that was our first step. If you already have a passport, you can skip this post if you want or continue reading to hear the beginning of this s*** show. Here are the steps to get your passport and what to be prepared for; that may also be wrong! Remind me never to get government documents signed during the next global shutdown!
Go online to this website and fill out the applications and gather all your documents https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/forms.html. I found it was helpful for me to literally print out the steps and cross them out as I go, but I'm not tech-savvy, so I go old school.
What you need for each person applying age 16+:
birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship
a form of I.D.
For anyone under the age of 16, you don't need a second form of I.D.; the birth certificate is enough. Here are the specifics:
birth certificate either needs to be original or a certified birth certificate. You will also need to make copies of each of these forms. We luckily scrounged around and were able to find ours! If you don't have it, you will have to order it (I'll explain that process later).
Form of I.D. can be driver's license or regular I.D. they also have a list of few other forms that work as well
to get a passport photo you can either spend money at CVS or $45 at the post office, but trying to save money; we found a free app on google play called passport photo editor. It was effortless to use (again, not tech-savvy). You do have to have photo paper to print it on, or they won't accept it. Cut it out; it will re-size it for you, and attach it to your application.
Fees differ a little based on renewing, getting one for a minor, or getting a new passport. They have a calculator to help you with the amount. Also, you do not have to bring a cashier's check; the post office will take debit and help you make 2 separate payments: one for the post office and one for the passport office. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/fees/fee-calculator.html
We needed to get a passport book that allows you to go overseas and also get a passport card that lets you go to Mexico and Canada. We got the card because if you have not switched your ID to the real ID that is coming out, you can use the passport card instead. Saves us a trip to the DMV and costs the same. With regular mail for ours we had: 1 new minor passport: $95 application fee + $35 service fee = 130; 1 renewal application fee $140; 1 new passport: application fee $140 + service fee $35 = 175 for a total of $445. Now yours may be less if you only get the passport book etc.
Our fees did come out to be more, however, because we went with expedited shipping. The current passport processing time is 10-12 weeks. If you do expedite, it takes 4-6 weeks. (when we don't have a plague, it's about a week). Expedited is an extra $60 per application. Our total came out to $625 ughgh
Our process went like this. Printed out all the forms, collected certificates and photos. We made an appointment at our local post office. We brought all of our stuff to the post office after obsessively checking to make sure we didn't miss anything. I turned it all in, and wa la, easy peasy. Once we got into the car, however, I remember we forgot to ask for expedited shipping, so the husband ran back inside, dropped the $180, and had to have the poor women re-do all of the shipping information; thank you, ADHD, for forgetting that important detail! Luckily we caught her before she started helping the next people in line!
Make sure to get your tracking receipts. Also, there is a website where you can track the status of your passport https://passportstatus.state.gov/. Now here is when things got fun for us. So first, the post office didn't tell us that they can't ship the passports together, and each person has their own tracking label, except for the minor who will randomly be placed with one of the parents. Due to them not being processed together, and I think because mine was a renewal, they went to two separate processing facilities: mine went to Pennsylvania, and theirs went to Texas. We discovered this when I got super confused by why they went to different places and had to call the post office. I was worried that our last-minute changes messed us up! No one knew what was happening until we finally got the passport manager at the post office on the phone and explained it.
So now our USPS tracking says they arrived at the sorting facilities yay! I go and start trying to check the passport status on the website above, and I can see my son's and husband's info but not mine! I call the number on the status website and wait on hold for 1.5 hours and discovered whoever logged my packet put the wrong name! Instead of Tiffany Libby, I was iffany ibby...So they kindly corrected it and told me to check the site later. 3 days later, still not on the site. Call back, 1.5 hours later, they tell me it can take a few days for the system to update, and until then, I can look me up by iffany ibby. A few notes it may show that your passport is sitting at the processing facility forever, but it just takes a while for them to update it.
When they start sending your passports, they will send them all separately. Passport book comes first, then a week later passport card, and a week later your birth certificates. So 4 weeks later, we have the status saying shipped, and they arrive in 2 days. Awesome, they were faster than we were hoping! Open up the package, and here's mine and my son's...no husband's...oh yeah, they ship his separately! 2 more days pass, and we get a skinny envelope...apparently they need further documentation to prove my husband is who he says he is. I guess the state-issued driver's license and certified birth certificate weren't enough? We are told we have to send 5 separate forms of identification outside of the last 5 years!!!
They give you a list of all these weird things like your yearbook photo, etc. My husband is 39 and has no access to his yearbook! You can also send receipts with their name and signature on them...again, but from over 5 years ago. Fortunately, in my husband's travels, he is kind of a weird ID packrat. He literally had all of his past driver's licenses and school IDs. They want photocopies, not originals, so they can just shred them. Instead of sending 5 pictures front and back, I sent pictures of the 10 forms of ids he had just to be thorough. Ran to the post office to have it 2 day shipped, as we were told since we paid for expedited originally it would be treated as such. If I had gotten to the post office during business hours on a Sat, they would have shipped the info free, but of course, I missed the window by a half-hour and got to I ship it myself paying $32...ouch. The passport people received our passport, and about 2 weeks later (ugh), it was finally approved and received.
I know that was a lot, but I wanted to cover all the things I had questions about and had to discover through trial and error. Now our situation is pretty much the worst-case scenario, so it may be a breeze for you, which every blog I read made it seem like it was. I wanted to throw one last tip you may not qualify for a passport if you have an active felony so look into that. Also, if you owe $2500 or more in back child support, they will deny your application. Now that this was covered, in my next post, I will be sharing what we were doing to get the other forms filled out without birth certificates due to them being at the passport office!
Please leave a comment so I can see what you like and what I can improve!