Monthly Archives: October 2016

Passport Quick Tips!

Here’s the low down on some important passport information! With so much to grasp and so much
time to kill in the agency line, the challenge of obtaining or renewing a passport can seem daunting.
Have no fear, ePassportPhoto is here!

Passports, photos, and fees, oh my!

Passport fees for a classic ten-year passport are $135, if the passport holder is 16 years of age or over. The fee is a mere $105 for a five-year passport, if the subject is under 16.

In general passport renewal fees are $110 and you should be aware that some facilities accept payment via credit and debit cards. To be safe, be sure to call ahead and get some piece of mind.

The Passport Card, Unveiled!

At last, the State Department has developed a more economical alternative to the traditional passport, and it is simply referred to as the passport card. This card is not valid for any international air travel, but is intended for use in place of a passport for land and sea travel between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

This vital document contains an identification chip that can be read by a scanner from distances of up to 20 feet. These newfangled passport replacements run about $55 for adults and $40 for children. Not to worry-adults who already have a paper passport in their possession can pay just $30 for the passport card.

Application Season!

The State Department warns passport-seekers that they should expect their passport to be processed within four to six weeks.

As the application processing time varies greatly with passport agencies’ workloads at the respective sites, It’s generally advised to book at least two months in advance of any scheduled international travel!

PRO TIP: The spring and summer months are the busiest times for application, so the process, itself, may take even longer!

If you’re in a serious rush and you don’t live near one of the passport agencies, you may also want to consider utilizing a passport and visa expeditor!

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Passport First-Timers!

First-Time Passport Applications and You!

If It’s your very first time applying for a U.S. passport, you’ll be forced to apply in person at one of two locations:

A regional passport agency, or one of the thousands of facilities in the country that accept passport applications.

Yes, this absolutely includes courthouses and post offices!

Don’t be shy and be sure to find a facility or agency that meets your needs!

Here’s a quick list to know what you’ll need when you apply:

  • Citizenship proof – a birth certificate (government issued), a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship, or even an expired U.S. passport.
  • ID (photo and signature) – this includes a previous U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, a valid driver’s license, or a valid government/military ID card. Oh, and be sure to include an 8 1/2 x 11 inch photocopy of this document!

Basic rules for your passport photos:

The photographs must be 2×2 inches with the subject’s head between 1 and 1 3/8 inches! Additionally, photographs must be a front view, full face, taken in simple attire (without a hat or dark glasses), and most importantly, with a plain white background.

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

When You Don’t Need a Passport!

A useful question to ask before venturing on your next getaway might seem like an obvious one-

Do I need a passport for this trip?

As you already know, passports are required for all international air travel and for most land or sea travel as well. We want you to know, however, that there are a few exceptions:

Cruisin’

  • U.S. citizens who are on cruise ships that begin and end at the exact same port in the U.S. will simply be required to show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID.

Children Can Chill!

  •  Children 16 and under arriving by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or even the Caribbean may present proof of citizenship like a birth certificate.

Adults Are Alright!

  • Adults can utilize a simpler passport card may be used in place of a passport if you’re traveling by land or sea between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean. See below for more information on the passport card.

Pro Tip: Copies of birth certificates are acceptable if you are unable to bring your original one!

Additionally for adult cruise passengers, if the name on your birth certificate doesn’t match the one on your driver’s license, it’s definitely a wise decision to bring along documentation of your name change, including but not limited to a marriage certificate.

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

National Passport Information Center!

Brush up on how to get in touch with an awfully helpful and vital resource: The National Passport Information Center!

This incredibly useful program is available to answer any and all passport questions-as you may know by now, there’s plenty to be asked! 

Of course, If you’re outside of the United States, please be sure to contact the nearest embassy or consulate for all of your passport inquiries and needs!

  • Contact the service by phone!
  • Customer service representatives are available to assist during the following hours:
    Monday-Friday (8:00 am to 10:00 pm EST)
    Saturday (10:00 am to 3:00 pm EST)
  • The office closes on Federal Holidays, of course! Fear not-automated passport information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Contact the service by e-mail!
    • NPIC@state.gov
    • As with every proper customer service, most emails are answered within 24 hours.
    • If you are experiencing an emergency, be sure to contact the service via phone!
      • If you have a ?life or death” travel emergency occurring outside of normal business hours, be sure to call (202) 647-4000.
  • If you have a kind words for the service, or, more likely, something you’d like to see change, you can provide feedback online, via phone, or in person!

*See the resources below to do so!

  • Online: Complete a customer service form on the agency’s website!
  • Phone: 1-855-865-7755
  • Kiosk: Located conveniently at a passport agency or center!

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Getting Your Documents and What You’re Entitled To!

Passport seekers and American citizens, alike, should know that The Privacy Act grants them the right to obtain records (copies) in your own name, and the name(s) of your children/incompetent person for whom you are the guardian, as well as records in the name of anybody who has gone through the process of authorizing you to obtain them!

There are some materials required to do so! Read below to find out:

  • The full birth name and any name changes of the individual whose records you request. If you are requesting on someone’s behalf, be sure to include your own name!
  • If you are requesting records about anyone other than yourself, evidence of legal authorization to do so will definitely be required!
  • The date/place of birth for individual whose records you are requesting!
  • Your current mailing address
  • Your current telephone number
  • Your current e-mail address
  • The timeline of the passport(s) being issue
  • The passport number of the person whose records you are seeking
  • A copy of both sides of your valid photo identification

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives

Musical Mugs!

If you wanna travel, you must participate in the passport photo shoot, no matter the fame!

Check out what worked for the musical icons below!

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

  • Marvin’s background is white and the lighting is balanced
  • Both of Martin’s ears are exposed
  • Martin is centered and facing forward
  • Martin is not wearing any extraneous items

2d11511419-140204-marvin-gaye-passport-today-inline-large janis-joplin

  • Janis is not wearing any jewelry
  • Janis’ likeness has not changed drastically since her last passport photo
  • Janis is centered and forward facing, with both eyes clearly open
  • Janis’ image is high contrast

92b2b57787dedad9b64c7ae6c10947a2

  • George is dead center
  • George is not wearing any hats
  • The background is completely white
  • The contrast is high, and the lighting is clear

Transgender Rights and Passports

As a global push towards a broader extension of basic human rights reaches the transgender community and the ongoing struggle for political and social equality.

Recently, a woman traveling from India to the United States had her passport revoked on a return trip because her passport lists her gender as transgender, and her US visa application, which showed her gender as female, didn’t match it!

These decisions regarding self-representation and identity have been central to recent election cycles, political campaigns, and legislative happenings. Turbulent tides threaten to further marginalize certain already alienated groups of citizens and travelers alike-The Unites States is presented with a question of confronting such policies, as several other nations committed to doing.

As it turns out, India is one of several nations (including Australia) which allow citizens to identify themselves as an option outside of male or female on their passports and other official government identification forms.

The US State Department requires that passport applicants report their gender as either male or female and as such, there is no option to show one’s gender as transgender, bigender, agender, etc…

However, the heavily scrutinized department has provided clear procedures for changing the gender listed on the passport for individuals who are in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, or who have even previously had medical gender reassignments.

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Old Passport? What’s the Use?

Here’s a few words on why you should keep your out of date passport.

Why should you keep that expired passport (besides admiring your perfect picture, of course)?

  • It’s proof of your US citizenship!

So long as your appearance doesn’t drastically change and you are recognizable as the person who is pictured in your old passport, it can be used as proof of your US citizenship! Pretty cool, huh?

This way, if you ever lose your VALID passport (not that you will) and need to get a replacement, you can submit a cancelled passport as proof of your US citizenship instead of going through the trouble of producing your original birth certificate.

  • It’s proof of your identity!

Of course, you should never find yourself in the situation of having both your passport and/or driver’s license lost, stolen, destroyed, etc… In the terrible case that you ever do, that old passport document can be easily used as a means of getting a new driver’s license.

  • Keep it for posterity!

To put it simply and not too cornily, your passport is a tangible record of all the countries you’ve visited in your travels.

Of course, flipping through those tattered (although, hopefully not) pages and reliving all of your stamps is such a moving way to reminisce! In addition, It’s also fun to look back at your old, dated photos, or maybe a the passport of your little one!

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Clear Your Passport Ahead of Time!

Most likely, after a lengthy international flight, the last thing you’ll want to do is deal with the hassle of passport checking, subsequent lines, and maybe a cranky family to boot.

Are you just trying to get home to a hot shower, or the welcomed site of your four-legged, furry friend? 

No matter who or what is waiting for you when you exit the plane, we know what you don’t want to be standing around for an additional, unspecified length of time!

Get smart with preclearance and enjoy your flight!

So, what is it?

Although It’s not so commonly known, preclearance is not a new program, by any means. In fact, preclearance facilities have existed and operated outside the US since the 1950’s.

At overseas airports with those US preclearance facilities, travelers go through exactly the same entry procedures that are usually followed at the arrival airport in the US. This includes passport control, customs, and even agriculture inspections. This way, when you arrive in the states, there’s no more hassle than a domestic flight! Get to the finish line faster!

Additionally, you should know that the amazing benefits of a preclearance program extend far beyond convenience to those affected. It is also an absolutely pivotal gain for national security, as this process acts as an extra layer of protection and scrutiny to make sure that terrorists or potentially inadmissible people are not allowed to board flights to America!

Oh, and by the way, every single US-bound traveler who is flying out of an airport with preclearance facilities may use said facilities! This is true regardless of whether or not the traveler is a US citizen!

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Passport Origin!

If you were born in the US, your passport will list your state of birth, immediately followed by “U.S.A.” In general, If a passport holder was born in a US territory, your passport will show the name of that territory followed by “U.S.A.” For example, your passport may say “Puerto Rico, U.S.A.”

Why the specificity?

No matter if the passport holder’s citizenship was acquired by naturalization or by birth to a US citizen guardian, if the individual was born outside of the United States, the resulting passport will list that country of birth, without the extra bit!

In other words, if you were born in Paris, even your US passport would read “Place of Birth: France.”

If the country you were born in has not gone through territorial changes/name alterations, the process is easy and fairly intuitive! However, with en ever-changing globe and a constantly-carved world stage, what happens to the fine print?

The State Department regulations require that the current name of the country that has sovereignty over your city of birth should be listed.

By this logic, if you were born in Moscow in the first half of the 20th century, your US passport will list your place of birth as Russia, even though the country was the Soviet Union at the time of your birth! Get it?

As you might have imagined, it gets a bit more complex if you were born in a place that is currently:

  • A disputed territory
  • Part of a country that is not formally recognized by the United Nations or the United States

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Passport Validity!

Did you know that passport validity requirements differ from country to country?

Find out how long you’ll need in order to stay mobile!

Mexico – Six months validity required!

Canada – Passport must be valid upon entering!

United Kingdom – Passport must be valid your the entire period of stay!

France – Six months validity required!

Italy – Your passport must be valid for at least three months past your scheduled return!

Spain – Your passport must be valid for at least three months past your scheduled return!

Jamaica – Passport must be valid when you enter!

Bahamas – Passport must be valid upon entering!

Dominican Republic – Passport must be valid upon entering!

Costa Rica –Passport must be valid your the entire period of stay!

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Passports and Cruises, oh my!

Cruises are undeniably great vacation plans!

From the very moment that you step on board, don’t worry about a thing!

Think about it! You only have to unpack your bag once, you never have to question where and when you’ll be getting that next meal, and you can enjoy the night time entertainment around the corner!

In order to make sure you’re allowed to board, you’d be wise to double check your passport and make sure that you have the right travel documentation to get out and go!

It’s possible that you’ve heard of the closed-loop cruise, when folks are discussing Caribbean cruises, in particular! What does it all mean? This is simply a term used to signify that your cruise begins and ends at the very same port in the US!

It logically follows, then, that you’ll need proof of US citizenship to get on board.

A passport is undoubtedly the most successful way to prove citizenship, but an original birth certificate showing birth in the US (along with a valid driver’s license) is also considered solid proof of citizenship.

Every single cruise line recommends that passengers have a passport book valid for at least six months past the scheduled end date of the cruise.

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Second Valid Passport Blurb!

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the passport universe!

Second valid passports are defined as limited validity US passports.

They simply allow a US citizen to hold two valid passports simultaneously, and are usually issued to travelers who can demonstrate they have one of the following circumstances:

  • Travel to the Middle East!
    • If you’re planning a trip to this region of the globe (Libya, for example), you won’t be allowed to enter if you have entry stamps from Israel in your passport. This would ban you from experiencing this most incredible reach of the earth!
    • The solution? You can get a second valid passport to utilize for your Middle East travel
  • Conflicting travel plans!
    • Got two trips back-to-back, where the second requires a visa?
    • If you need to have your passport to get a visa at the same time you have other international travel plans, you can easily opt to obtain a second valid passport to avoid the issue, entirely.

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Pack Like a Professional!

Packing your travel luggage is a necessary part of every trip-whether for business, or pleasure! What kind of packer are you? “Know thyself,” as they say!

Are you a list-maker, a last minute rusher, or somewhere in between? Do you take pride in your packing skills or could you use to sharpen up?

Check out the tips below to stay on top of your travel needs!

As you probably are already aware, the almighty carry-on bag is totally essential piece of the plane travel experience. Usually, airlines allow you to bring on one carry-on suitcase that will fit in the overhead bin, and a single personal item. This would include a purse, computer case, or a smaller backpack.

As airfare goes through the roof and checked baggage fees follow, many travelers are perfecting the mystifying art of fitting their stuff in to carry-ons!

TSA will be screening your average carry-on bags before you board your flight and head towards your destination. New limitations on carry-on materials in recent years have led to a more complicated airport procedure, but fear not! Yes, the ban on large containers of liquids is often the most troublesome and difficult to grasp for travelers. If you have shampoos, lotions, or other luxury toiletries you’d like to travel with, you can purchase those pesky little travel-size containers. Repurpose some old bottles to save a buck!
Definitely make sure that anything you know you’ll want to use during the flight is packed into your aforementioned personal item bag, which you can keep under the seat in front of you!

Your plane mates are discouraged from opening the overhead compartments while the plane is in flight and It’s definitely best that this convention is observed! Grab what you’ll need to make it through your lengthy flight!

Your average travelers will be prepped for flying and airport waiting periods with an arsenal of snacks, gum, mints,  etc…Remember, if your flight doesn’t have meal service, you may even want to purchase a meal in the terminal and carry it with you!

Bring a doggy bag from your favorite spot, or pack a meal from home to save!

Bring entertainment items for yourself, such as magazines, books, and your tablet or smartphone and most importantly, don’t forget to give those suckers a charge! A sweatshirt is a must for those who find themselves easily chilled. 🙂

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

International Possport Basics

Ever wished you could be the lucky holder of a passport from another country?

Dual citizenship, defined as having valid passports from two different nations, can certainly offer a lot of advantages. The most important of these being that it gives you the legal right to live and subsequently work in several countries.

Additionally, this can allow you visa-free access to many more nations, even as a temporary visitor.

Now, United Kingdom citizens are scrambling to acquire that essential dual citizenship in the wake of the chaotic and unexpected Brexit vote for the UK to formally leave the European Union.

Folks understandably want to get a passport from a European Union country/territory, which would allow them to work, study, and simply live in any EU country.

Interestingly, people born in Northern Ireland (which is technically part of the United Kingdom) have an uncharacteristically easy time acquiring citizenship in the Republic of Ireland.

Simply by being born in Northern Ireland, these lucky residents are eligible for both British and Irish passports!

On a different note, one of the most sound methods of becoming a citizen of another country is by moving to and living in that country for several years. As you might know you’ll be required to have a residence visa to start out (so you can legally live in the country while waiting to become a citizen).

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Glasses and Your Passport Photo!

Kiss those Specs Goodbye! … For Your Photo…

The good ol’ United States is not the first country to insist upon glasses-less passport photos.

Many other countries share this stipulation and for some places, this extends to Visa photos. France and the United Kingdom, for example, do not allow eyeglasses in passport photos. Read below to find out why!

In the past, the US had only banned the wearing of sunglasses or glasses with any sort of shaded/tinted lenses (anything that would make it hard to see the holder’s eyes. Additionally, a rule was in place that if the applicant wore glasses in the photo, the risk of glare would have to be considered and dealt with prior to submission. Of course, this too, would hide one’s eyes.

Glare is a classic issue for eyeglass users and similarly, this  has been a problem with passport photos. According to the state departments, this is actually one of the top reasons that passport photos are rejected by the Passport Agency. With this more recent rule against wearing glasses in passport photos, the agency will ensure that nobody will have this problem for long!
Another significant component of the decision to have glasses banned in passport photos is due to biometric passports! These passports store basic data about the passport subject or holder on a small computer chip, which is conveniently embedded in the passport.

This pretty basic data includes your name, your birth date, and of course, passport number.

In addition, you should know  that passport photo can also be converted into biometric data!

A computer program can easily analyze a scan of your photo and take quick measurements of your face, like measuring the distance between your eyes, for example, and store this information as biometric data. Don’t be scared of this spooky-sounding program-It’s just an electronic/digital passport. It logically follows that if you wear glasses in your passport photo, it makes it more difficult for the computer program like the one described above, to take accurate measurements of your features.

Take your photos like a pro and be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!

Traveling with Your Furry Friend!

Taking your pet on your next getaway? Don’t trust your trusty companion in your absence?

Traveling with your dog or cat can certainly pose some obvious challenges! However, with, a little bit of painless planning, the sky’s the limit (pun intended).

Follow these quick insights to ensure a smooth trip for your beloved pet!

Specify the Travel Process of Your Destination!

Every country and territory has specific, often differing rules about the flow of live animals, including domestic pets. Think dog, cat, etc…

Quarantining is a difficult process, which for obvious reasons, can freak out a lot of common house pets. Incoming dogs, for example, are sent to a government-controlled kennel facility to and kept in isolation until it is deemed that he/she does not carry any communicable/transmissible diseases.

Additionally, pets who are quarantined may have to spend several months in the dreaded quarantine facility before they can be reunited with their owners! Rough, huh?

Here’s the good news: If you can provide appropriate paperwork to show that your animal is healthy and fully vaccinated, your pet should be all set to accompany you, hassle free!

Check the Pet Passport Demands!

This name was cleverly coined by the European Union, in order to facilitate travel for domesticated animals through new territories.

Veterinarians in Europe can assemble these nifty passport books for your dogs, cats, and ferrets that contains all of your favorite animal’s health and immunization records. After your pet has obtained that EU pet passport, they will be able to travel alongside their owner across the continent (and yes, the U.K.).

Outside of the European Union, if you hear folks referring to “pet passports,” don’t be fooled! These aren’t the actual aforementioned passport books, but this term is just used to refer to the health records that your dog or cat will need to travel internationally, in any capacity!

It’s key to note that In the United States, such documents are issued by your local veterinarians and by the United States Department of Agriculture!

Check with a Vet!

Your last stop should be at your vet of choice’s office. First, your vet should determine whether or not your pet is healthy enough for travel! This is especially key if your furry friend is going to be enduring long flight routes, dangerous weather, etc… If you get clearance, take to the skies!

Be sure to message us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!