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Key Documents for International Travel

If you don't have a passport, you can appear in person at any of more than 5,000 U.S. courthouses and post offices that are specifically authorized to accept passport applications. If in doubt, call the general access number at the courthouse or post office in question and ask if that location is approved for passport applications.

If you need your passport urgently (if you plan to travel abroad within the next two weeks), you can contact any of the thirteen U.S. passport agencies that accept applications by appointment.

As of 2005, these offices were located in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Norwalk, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC. You will need to call the passport agency in advance and you may be asked to provide proof of the urgent need for the passport, such as a ticket showing travel within fourteen days.If you were born in the U.S.

, you should bring an official certified copy of your birth certificate. If you do not have one, you can request a copy from the agency that records births and vital statistics in your state of birth, usually for a small fee.If for some reason you cannot obtain a copy of your birth certificate, you will need a letter of no record issued by your state of birth with your name, date of birth and a statement showing the years that were searched for your birth record and the fact that there is no birth certificate on file for you.

Along with this, you need to bring as many different proofs of birth as possible, including baptismal services, hospital birth records, census records, early school records, or even your doctor's record of postnatal care. You can also use a notarized affidavit of birth signed by an older blood relative who has personal knowledge of your birth, though this will carry less weight than an official document.If you were born outside the U.S.

, you will need a copy of the consular report of birth abroad or certification of birth, your naturalization certificate, or your citizenship certificate as proof of your U.S. citizenship.

You will also need to provide proof of your identity - a valid driver's license, a government or military ID card, or a certificate of naturalization or citizenship. If these are not available, you should bring other signature documents such as a Social Security card or credit card, along with a person who can vouch for you who does have valid ID. Finally, bring two identical 2" x 2" photographs taken within the past six months, color or black and white, front view, full face.You should plan at least 90 days wait time to receive your passport. State officials say 6 weeks but you should plan longer. Expedited service (two weeks' turnaround) may be available but can cost as much as $60 extra.

If you plan to travel abroad a lot, you should request a larger, 48-page passport for no extra charge.

.Michael Russell.Your Independent guide to Travel.

By: Michael Russell

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