Changes in passport fees and forms taking effect

December 27, 2010
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Making your spring break plans early, or perhaps preparing to head to the royal wedding next April in London? It will cost you more these days.

Passport fees increased substantially this year for new applications, renewals and passport cards. The new prices are reflected in the categories below. And more changes are coming in the new year. Beginning Feb. 1, 2011, the government will require all passport applicants to use new forms. Until that time, the current forms should be submitted for passport applications.

Don't forget, federal regulations now require returning airline passengers from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda to carry passports or a passport card.

What will happen if you don't have your passport or card? You will be referred for secondary screening at the airport when you apply for re-entry. Customs officers will evaluate any evidence of citizenship or identity that you may have and will verify it against available databases. 

Now let's get back to the royal wedding — and let's assume you've never needed a passport before.

First-time applicants

In order to apply for a passport, several items are required. You must have a certified copy of your birth certificate; a completed DS-11 form, which is available online at travel.state.gov/passport or at your local post office; two passport photos, 2-by-2 inches, in color and taken within the past six months; $135 if age 16 or older; and an old passport, naturalization certificate, valid driver's license or current government or military ID as proof of identity. 

Social Security cards won't work because they do not contain a photo ID. You must personally take these items to one of the many locations that accept passport applications. 

Many post offices, clerks of court, public libraries and other state, county, township and municipal government offices accept passport applications. You can search for a nearby location at travel.state.gov/passport.

Renewal

If your passport has expired, you may be able to renew by mail. If your most recent passport is available to submit and is not damaged, if you received the passport within the past 15 years and were over 16 when it was issued, and if you still have the same name or can legally document your name change, you are eligible to renew by mail. However, if your passport has been altered or damaged, you must apply in person.

To renew by mail, download form DS-82 from the passport website and attach it to your most recent passport. You must also include two passport photos and a $110 fee made payable to the U.S. Department of State.

Name change

If your name has been legally changed due to marriage or a court order within one year from the date of issuance of your passport, you can make the change by mail, and for free. Submit form DS-5504 along with a certified copy of the legal document specifying your name change (e.g. marriage certificate, divorce decree, adoption decree, or court order), two recent passport photos and your current valid passport.

If it has been more than one year from the date of issuance of your passport, you must follow the requirements for submitting a renewal application, including submission of a $110 fee, and attach the legal document specifying your name change. 

You must apply in person if your name was changed by other means or you are unable to legally document your name change.

Minors

All children regardless of age — even newborns and infants — must have their own passport. Children 14 through 17 should apply as first-time applicants and must appear in person. Parental consent may be requested. If your child does not have identification of his or her own, then you must accompany your child and present your own identification.   

For children under 14, the requirements are more exacting. In addition to providing a form DS-11, two passport photos and the applicable fee (children under 16 pay $105), you will need proof of your child's U.S. citizenship and proof of your parental status. For more information on the types of proof accepted, visit travel.state.gov/passport. 

Expedited processing

Finally, if you procrastinated too long or need to travel urgently, you may apply for expedited processing of your application for an additional $60 plus overnight delivery costs. The process is now taking two to three weeks door-to-door. 

If you are traveling in less than 10 days or have a life or death emergency, call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. 

For additional information, go to travel.state.gov/passport.  

April Sawhill is an associate in the law firm of Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett LLP.

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