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Passport StampsReady for takeoff?

Do you have your passport or the visas you'll need to get in and out of the countries you plan on visiting?

If not, don't worry. With the ease of Internet applications, applying for a new passport or renewing an existing passport has never been easier.

First, download a US passport application online. If it's your first time applying for a passport you usually need to present yourself in person at the local passport office.

But before you go, here's a step-by-step guide to successfully navigating the passport process:

Applying for a passport step-by-step

young woman entering passport office• Go to any photo service shop to have your passport photos taken. They will usually know the exact size and type of photo required. (If in doubt, bring an extra blank application with you and show them the instructions detailing the passport photo requirements.)

• Gather your documentation. Usually, a photo ID is required along with an original birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. In the US, the passport office will also request that you have photocopies of your ID (front and back) on hand to submit with your application form.

• Once you're ready, present the completed passport application form, your passport photos, required documentation and/or photocopies -- and the passport processing fee -- to your local passport office.

NOTE: In the US, your birth certificate will be retained by the passport office but later returned to you with your new passport or in a separate mailing.

Instructions for filling out a US passport form

Since it will take several weeks or more to process, be sure to apply for your new or renewed passport ahead of time -- BEFORE you need to travel! Especially avoid peak summer travel times when the local passport office is usually overwhelmed with applications.

{ED NOTE: Live in a big urban area? Consider traveling out of town to a less crowded city with a passport office. It's guaranteed to be far more pleasant experience!]

For information on student visas for foreign students see the US Immigration Student Visa site,

Traveling with kids or infants? You'll also need a passport with basic instructions found for passports for minors under 16.

Good luck, and happy travels!

also see -> Do I Need a US Passport to Travel to Canada?

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