Traveling without a passport is like driving a car with flat tires. You can get to your destination, but it won’t be easy. Because passports are now mandatory for anyone traveling from Florida to common destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, and they can facilitate the process of getting a new Florida driver’s license, the passport is quickly becoming the go-to document of many Floridians.
Getting a passport is often a last resort for non-travelers, as it might seem time and cost prohibitive. But while passports are not as inexpensive as they used to be, their functionality and security make them worth the price.
Application times and costs
The U.S. Department of State travel page has an encyclopedic amount of information on passports. The site also talks about the new passport card, which can be used for people who just need a passport to get across North American borders or in and out of the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Both book and card passports are good for 10 years. New cards for citizens 16 and older cost around $45, and books are about $100. Both take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to process depending on volume, however, for travelers on a time budget, both versions can be expedited in 2-3 weeks for an additional $60 fee plus delivery charges.
Applying for a passport
In order to apply for a new passport, applicants have to appear in person at their local passport office. In the Tampa area, there are a number of passport application offices. Applicants must bring:
- A completed DS-11 Form
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship (usually a certified birth certificate)
- Current photo identification (and bring a copy or two)
- Two passport photos
Passport photos can be obtained at most Walgreens pharmacies. Photos can also sometimes be done at the passport office for an additional fee, but call ahead to make sure your local office offers this service as it varies from location to location.
What was once a luxury for some is quickly becoming a necessity for all. But no matter how common they become, passports will always have a cool, “worldliness” factor to them. Aside from their role as identification, passports also speak to the inner traveler in everyone. Their colorful stamps and visas are the merit badges of time well spent abroad.
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