|Do you plan to travel outside the United States? Before you hop on to the next flight to Rome, don't forget to secure yourself a valid passport if you want to travel abroad. Even a short trip to Mexico or Canada needs a passport to cross the border. Gone were the days when a copy of your original birth certificate will suffice. Americans use the only universally accepted form of indentification, especially when travelling abroad - the United States passports.
Governments have used some form of passports for over a hundred years. Passports, letters of transit and similar documents were used to distinguish a traveler as a citizen or a national with a right to protection in foreign lands and a right to go back to his home country. However, it wasn't until the 19th and 20th centuries when all countries have adopted the passport as the official form of identification for international travelers.
United States citizens apply a passort from the State Department and its 14 passport agencies in major cities, clerks of federal and certain state courts, certain designated post offices and US consular authorities abroad. Just like departing the United States, the passport is also needed for re-entry to the country. The validity of the passport depend on the age of the holder; it is valid for 10 years for adults, while 5 years for minors because their appearances change more often.
New technologies are incorporated like advanced printing technology, special inks and security thread in the paper to periodically update it the production of US passports; this avoids imitators and forgers. A new passport was introduced in 2006 known as the e-passport or the RFID (radio frequency identification) passport. It has a computer chip embedded in the back cover that contains your biographical information and a digital copy of your photograph, which is used with facial recognition technology.
First time applicants need to apply in person for their United States passports. A physical appearance is also required for children below 18. Follow these 2 steps to apply: (1) Complete application Form DS-11, and (2) Present proof of US citizenship (previous US passport, certified birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship).
First time travellers experience the thrill of going abroad. It may take a little time and money to apply for a passport, but the freedom you'll get to travel abroad is all worth it. Some foreign countries require visas for you to enter their country. Make sure you research the foreign entry requirements in advance before your planned departure to give you time to process your visa. Essentially, US passports are all that is needed for international travelling. And your plane ticket too!