Author: Daniel Daniels

Easy as ABC, 123: Everything You Need to Know About a Passport Name Change

Did you know that over 21.3 million passports were issued last year?

If you’ve got a passport but you need to have it updated to reflect your new name, the process can be confusing!

Whether you’re recently married, recently divorced, adopting, or planning to legally change your name, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of passport name changes.

We’re here to help make it easy as ABC! It doesn’t have to be confusing.

Read on for everything you need to know about a passport name change.

First, You Need to Know…

Even though the process for applying for a passport in your new name is different depending on a few factors, everyone should know the following things!

What Do I Need to Submit for a Name Change?

Besides sending in your old passport (to be voided), you’ll need to send in a new passport photo, payment, and legal documentation that proves your name was changed.

What Counts as Legal Documentation to Prove a Name Change?

The U.S. Passport Guide lists the following as acceptable documents:

  • Original or certified copy of a marriage license
  • Original or certified copy of a divorce decree
  • Original or certified copy of an adoption certificate, or
  • Original or certified copy of a court order

Photocopies or notarized copies of the above documents, a driver’s license, or social security cards are not acceptable documentation.

Don’t worry if you don’t have one of these documents! There’s still a way to apply for a passport name change. Read on for more.

How Long Does the Process Take?

It will take between 4-6 weeks to process unless you use an expedited service.

And that doesn’t include the time it takes for your materials to be mailed in and back to you.

If you’re planning on traveling sooner than 4-6 weeks or your plans require foreign visas, we recommend working with a passport agency

How Much Is the Passport Name Change Fee?

Applicants who are ages 16 or older whose passports were issued less than a year ago will not have to pay a fee to change the name on their passport.

For adults whose passport is older than 1 year, the fee to have a name change is $110 with the option to expedite for an additional $60.

For children age 15 and younger, the fee to have a name change is $80 with the option to expedite for an additional $60

You can find a more in-depth break down of the fee structure here.

What Can I Use to Pay the Fee?

You’ll need to use a check or money order to pay the fees listed above. The payment needs to be sent in by mail with the other documents unless you apply in person.

How Do I Make Sure the Documents I Mail Are Secure?

If you’re mailing any documents always use a reinforced envelope like a Tyvek envelope that will protect the package from regular wear and tear.

We also recommend purchasing insurance and tracking on the package at the post office. That will allow you to monitor its progress and have enough to replace the lost items.

Applying For a Passport Name Change

There are 3 different processes that are for 3 different types of people. To determine which process is appropriate for you, answer the questions below.

  • Is my current passport less than 1-year-old and do I have documentation that proves my legal name change? Yes? Then read #1.
  • Is my current passport older than 1 year and do I have the documentation that proves my legal name change? Yes? Then read #2.
  • If you don’t have the documentation to prove a legal name change then read #3.

#1 Your Current Passport is Less Than 1 Year Old

The first application is for people who have issued their original passport less than one year ago and they have legal documentation to show their name change. If you fit in this category, you’ll fill out form DS-5504.

Once your form has been completed, you’ll need to mail the form, your current passport, an updated passport photo, payment, and the documentation of your legal name change.

#2 Your Current Passport is between 2-15 Years Old

If your current passport is older than one year and you have the legal documentation to show your name change then you’ll fill out form DS-82.

Once your form has been completed, you’ll need to mail the form, your current passport, an updated passport photo, payment, and the documentation of your legal name change.

#3 You Do Not Have Documentation to Prove a Legal Name Change

If you don’t have the legal documentation for your name change then you’ll need to fill out form DS-11.

Once your form has been completed, you’ll need to appear in person to a local passport office with your current passport, an updated passport photo, payment, and 3 public records with date and place of birth proving exclusive use of your new name for at least 5 years.

One More Thing!

All your documents, your old passport, and your new passport will be mailed back to you within 4-6 weeks.

The above forms are all to be printed off and mailed in with your old passport and name-change documentation, but if you don’t have access to a printer or prefer paperless filing, you can fill out the electronic form here. You’ll need to agree to a disclaimer about fraud and abuse acts.

Now go on an enjoy your travels! Now that you completed your passport name change, you can enjoy all the world has to offer!

Read Next: How to Get an International Driver’s License

Traveling Can be Dangerous: What to Do About a Stolen Passport

Traveling abroad is exciting; you get to experience a new culture, see great wonders of the world, and make memories that will last a lifetime. But there’s also a great deal of planning that goes into it: plane tickets, passport applications, travel itineraries, hotel reservations, and more.

So what happens when a piece of your care plan goes wrong?

Running into trouble while you’re abroad is always stressful, and if your passport gets stolen, you may find yourself panicking. However, while a stolen passport is a serious matter, it’s not unfixable. Read on to learn what to do if your passport gets stolen while you’re traveling.

Report to the Local Police

The first step when you discover your passport is gone is to report to the local police. You’ll want to tell them that your passport is missing and that you think it’s stolen. They’ll be able to start an investigation, but more importantly, they’ll be able to file a report.

The police report will do a couple of things. First of all, it will create a record that will help track down the thief if they try to use your passport inappropriately. Second, and more important to you, that police report will help you get a new passport as quickly as possible.

Get a Photo

When you’re in a foreign country with no passport and a deadline to get out of the country on time, we know the first thing on your list is probably having a photo shoot done. Well, in fact, it should be. Before you even head for your embassy, you’ll want to go get a new passport picture taken.

As a note, some embassies will take a photo for you, but not all of them do. Having a passport photo already in hand will help speed up the process. Remember, there are guidelines to what constitutes an acceptable passport photo.

Gather Documentation

Okay, so you’ve been to the police station and you’ve had your photo made. Now it’s time to head for the embassy, right? Well, not quite; there are a few more things you’ll want to round up before you go to the embassy.

In addition to your photo, you’ll need some sort of identification, such as a driver’s license or expired passport. (If you’re planning an overseas trip, keep this in mind; you may want to bring another form of photo ID and store it in a different place than your passport.) You’ll also need evidence of U.S. citizenship (a photocopy of your passport will do), a travel itinerary, and the police report.

Go to Your Embassy

Now at last, you’re ready to go to your country’s embassy wherever you are. They are the ones who will be able to help you get a new temporary passport, and they can also help monitor whether someone else uses your stolen passport. You’ll need the police report and the passport photo you took for this process.

At the embassy, they’ll file a report saying your passport is missing and have you fill out another form applying for a new passport. You’ll want to let them know when you’re leaving the country so they can get you a replacement in time. If it’s a weekend, keep in mind that most embassies don’t work on the weekend, so you’ll need to wait until Monday.

Phone a Friend

If you’re not sure how to find your embassy or you feel you need some outside help, it might be a good idea to phone someone back home. The U.S. Department of State has an Office of Overseas Citizens dedicated to helping people abroad who run into situations like this.

They can sometimes help clarify or expedite the process.

Ask your friend to call the Office of Overseas Citizens and let them know where you are and that your passport has been stolen. The office will be able to put you in touch with the nearest consulate or embassy. You will still need to go to the embassy in person to apply for a new passport.

Know the Cost

Another factor you’ll want to plan for is passport fees. You’ll need to pay all the same fees to get your new passport as you did to get your old one. In fact, there can be some additional fees associated with the rushed process.

If you’re an adult, your new passport will cost you $110 before extra fees. The cost to get an expedited passport (which you’ll almost certainly need unless you’re on a study abroad) is an additional $60. Before you leave the country, you need to make sure you have a valid credit card with at least that much money available on it.

Keep Your Documentation Safe

While it’s too late in this case, the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still applies here. Your old passport may be gone, but you can keep it from happening in the future. Make sure you take steps to protect your documents, passport and otherwise, in the future.

Pickpocketing is a common problem, so make sure you don’t store your passport in a backpack, bag, or jacket. Instead, get a pouch you can wear inside your shirt or at your waist (not a fanny pack) to keep your documentation in. Have multiple forms of ID, as well as a photocopy of your passport, and store them all in different places, just in case.

Get the Best Help with Your Stolen Passport

Dealing with a stolen passport while you’re abroad is a special kind of stressful. But if you’re careful in your preparation and smart about handling the situation, things will turn out alright. You’ll be back on to the next leg of your trip in no time, and this will be a funny story you can tell at home someday.

If you’re trying to cope with getting a new passport, reach out to us at U.S. Passport Help Guide. We help with expedited passports with 24-hour processing, personalized service, online chat support, and easy checklists. Learn more about what to do about a lost passport and how to replace it.

What is a Passport Card and where can it Take Me?

As of October 2018, Americans can visit 186 countries without a visa and just with their passport.

As of 2008, the United States government has instituted a passport card, which is the size of a credit card and fits right in your wallet.

What is a passport card and where can you go with it? In this article, we’ll answer that question. We’ll also go over how you can apply for a passport card, and which documents you’ll need to do so.

What is a Passport Card?

A passport card is an identity card. It is Real ID compliant, meaning that it complies with the enhanced security measures the United States set forth for IDs after September 11th.

Passed in 2005, the legislation has become more well-known as individual states’ citizens will need to obtain a new ID to use it as identification. They will also not be able to fly domestically if their ID is not Real ID compliant.

Starting in October of 2020, citizens who do not have Real ID-compliant licenses will be unable to board domestic flights, access Federal facilities or enter nuclear power plants.

Those who have passport cards will not need to worry about whether their license is Real ID compliant, as the passport card will be sufficient identification.

At the moment, IDs that are not Real ID compliant are accepted, but the holder must provide an alternate ID as well. Therefore, having a Real ID compliant identification card saves time and effort.

Where Can I Go with a Passport Card?

Unlike a US passport, a passport card will only allow you entry into certain countries by certain means of transportation. You cannot, under any circumstance, enter a foreign country by air without a passport. A passport card will not suffice.

You can enter Mexico, Canada, The Caribbean and Bermuda with your passport. However, your entry must be either by sea or by crossing the border on land. Otherwise, you will need to show your actual passport to enter.

What is the Difference between a Passport Card and a Passport?

A passport card allows you land and sea entry to the countries above. A passport allows you entry to the 186 countries Americans can visit without a visa.

Passports are also books with pages for visas and border agents to stamp as you enter countries to visit or live. The first page of your passport will have information about you such as your birthdate and birthplace. You will also have a photo for identification purposes.

You may enter any country American citizens are allowed to enter by land, sea or air using a passport.

Passports are Real ID compliant and can be used for domestic travel as well.

Passports are also larger than passport cards. They cannot be carried in a standard wallet comfortably. Its dimensions are 5″ by 3.5″, or a little bit smaller than a standard 4″x 6″ photograph.

Passport cards can fit into a credit card slot in your wallet.

How long is a Passport Card Good For?

A passport card is valid for the same length of time as a regular passport. This is five years for individuals under the age of 16 and ten years for individuals over the age of 16. Once the passport card runs out, you will need to renew it.

How Much Does a Passport Card Cost?

A passport card costs $65 for a new card. This does not include the cost of your photo for the card.

Renewals cost $30 and must be done by mail. Those under 16 will pay $50 for the initial card and $30 for their renewal.

A passport costs $145 for an adult. A child under 16 will pay $115. Renewals cost $110.

Taking Your Passport Card Photo

You can have your passport photo taken at almost any post office, UPS store or drug store. The stores are typically staffed with someone who can take the photo for you. Depending on the setup of the store, they may print your photo, or you may do it yourself.

This service will typically cost $14 or $15.

You can save money by taking your photos at home and printing them off at a store if you so desire. Or, if you have a printer that can print photo quality documents on photo paper, this is also acceptable.

The photo must be 2″ by 2″ and taken in the past month. It must reflect your current appearance, be in color, and taken on a white or off-white background. You may not wear hats or uniforms unless it is for religious reasons and worn on a daily basis. It must be free of shadows, and you must face the camera with a neutral expression.

This guideline is for both passport and passport card photos.

Should I Get a Passport Card or Passport?

Getting a passport card or passport depends on your needs. If you regularly fly out of the country or plan to at any time soon, you should get a passport. Having one far in advance of any trip saves time and frustration for you and your family.

If you don’t plan to travel out of the country or are only planning to drive into neighboring countries, a passport card will suffice. This is especially encouraged if you live in a state where the licenses are no longer Real ID compliant.

Hopefully, this article helped you answer the question, “What is a passport card?”

For more information on passports and passport cards, visit our website.

How to Get a Money Order

If you need a money order, there are a variety of places you can visit to purchase one. Regardless of the establishment, you select, a money order is a secure means to use for a transaction. Keep in mind that each site will have a fee attached to the cost of the check. So, it is best to look around for the lowest price to pay for your money order.

Places to Purchase a Money Order

When you are ready to get your money order, look for the most notable establishments that are thrush worthy. There are many in your neighborhood. The notable ones are the post offices, banks, retail stores, pharmacies, and check cashing stores. At each site, the document may look different, but they all have the same use. So when you make your purchase, make sure you are getting a money order for the right amount. Some sites may accept cash only, and others may take a debit card as payment. Most places do not accept credit cards as a form of payment for a money order.

Post Offices

When you visit your post office to drop off your mail, you can purchase a money order from a teller. The money order is a blank check that requires you to fill in the information. A post office money order comes with the receipt attached to it. The receipt can be detached from the check. The receipt also has the same serial numbers printed on it as the check. It is your proof of purchase in case you lose your money order. Another advantage of buying from the post office is if you lose, damage, or got your money order stolen; it will be replaced with proof of purchase.

Banks

If you a bank account, you can purchase a cashier’s check. The cashier’s check is the same as a money order. However, your bank or any bank you will acquire the check from can print the name of the person or company you will pay. The other information you must fill in. Some banks may charge you a fee if you do not have an account with them. Be ready to pay the price.

Check Cashing Facilities

You may find plenty of check cashing sites around the neighborhood. Each will charge on a percentage based on the amount you will purchase while others may charge a flat fee. Regardless, you can get the check when you need one. Places you can go are Western Union and Money Gram.

Retail Stores

There are many retail stores like pharmacies, grocery, and chain stores that sell money orders. Again, each site will charge a fee, and the price will vary. If you visit one, ask if there is any warranty on your purchase if you should lose the check. So, the next time you are in your neighborhood Walgreens or Wal-Mart and need a money order, purchase it one time.

Filling Out The Money Order

Now that you have your money order, fill it out right away with the necessary information. One reason for doing so is if you lose it, the person that finds it cannot cash it. So, how do you fill in the information on your money order? Start by looking over the check and make sure it is for the right amount. Once that is clarified, endorse it.

Endorse Your Money Order

To endorse the check, write the name of the person or company you will pay. It is done right after the words “Pay to the Order of” and above the line. Write as clearly as possible to avoid the check getting rejected. Once you complete the endorsement, go to the next line where you will fill in your personal information. If you purchase the check from the bank and the name of the person or company is already on it, ignore this step.

Fill in Your Personal Information

Now you can fill in your information especially since you are using a money order. Unlike a personal check, a money order comes blank. You can provide your name and address. If you have enough space, you can also put the reason for the transaction. The last thing to do is signed the check. Use your signature as it is unique and is more difficult to duplicate. Printing your name is not a good idea because it is easy to replicate.

Now that you have completed all the steps, you can store your money order in a safe place if you are not ready to use it. Otherwise, you can mail it or submit it in person with your application and supporting documents to get your passport.