September is National Passport Awareness Month and since only 38% of Americans have a passport, I thought I could highlight some awesome reasons to get one!
1. The obvious...unlimited travel possibilities!
Dream of visiting far off lands? Well, you need a passport, no way around it! Think about all those cool stamps you can get! In Europe, the Schengen Agreement eliminated the European Union's internal borders, making traveling from France to Switzerland like going from Ohio to Pennsylvania, so stamps aren't as prevalent as they used to be. :-( However, you will typically get stamped on arrival in country and again on exit depending on your destinations, so there will be a least 2 more stamps in your passport! If you travel to a location that requires a visa, then hold on tight, because your passport is gonna get some extra bling!
2. You might need to get a replacement Social Security Card...
A passport is a great form of identity when you misplace or lose your social security card or even your driver's license. Just a few weeks ago, I realized I had lost my social security card and luckily, I had my passport which made getting a replacement a breeze!
3. To travel domestically
Until a few weeks ago, not many people had probably heard of the Real ID Act, now, folks all over are talking about it. The Real ID Act was enacted in May 2005 to establish and enforce state identification document standards in an effort to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on our identifying documents. The implementation of the Real ID Act is comprised of 4 phases, with the 4th phase beginning in January 2016, requiring secure driver's licenses or identification cards for air travel. Currently, there are 5 states that haven't made the required adjustments and are considered non-compliant by the Department of Homeland Security: Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and American Samoa. Luckily, there is a 3 month transition period where individuals with identification from the non-compliant states will be given notice when traveling that their IDs will no longer be valid after the 3 months...around March 2016. In the past, states have gotten extensions to this requirement, so it may be possible that one of the non-compliant states will get an extension, but who wants to cross their fingers and hope for that extension? Not I! In case you were wondering, passport books (passport cards aren't valid for air travel) are always accepted methods of identification for air travel!
4. International Adoption
Last year the State Department facilitated over 6,000 international adoptions. Unfortunately, the intercountry adoption process can be complicated and take years to complete. Depending on the laws in the adoptive country, adoptive parents may be required to be evaluated in-country and some countries may even require an extended period of residence in the foreign country while awaiting the completion of the adoption paperwork.
5. Neighborly visits
For several years now, it has been required to have either the passport book or passport card to re-enter the US from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry. For many folks, this also means it is a necessary document for their next Caribbean cruise, hitchhiking extravaganza through Mexico to South America, or visit to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Our neighbors to the north and south have a lot to offer us and it would be a shame to let a document stop us from visiting!
So, now that you are convinced that you really should get that passport (Mom), here's what you have to do:
- Visit the State Department website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/apply.html
- Confirm your eligibility
- Collect necessary documents
- Get your passport pictures
- Go in-person, complete the application, and pay the fee (First Time applicants: $135 adults/$105 minors)
While passports aren't necessarily cheap, they are an investment. They allow you the freedom of going anywhere your heart, feet, or like my buddy Bob-your thumb takes you! Finally, if this is still slightly overwhelming, (we get it, it can be!) Earthly Roams can assist getting your passport and visas squared away as part of our trip planning consultation prior to traveling! Just let us know! :)