The Traveler’s Guide to Navigating U.S. Passport and Visa Applications

The maze of U.S. forms and checks can be confusing for people seeking to apply for a passport or visa. Unfortunately, dedicated passport and visa websites rarely improve the situation. To help you or your family members and loved ones navigate these international matters, this guide lays out the key information you need and specific web pages where it can be found. Consult either the Passport or Visa section to solve your problems quickly.

Passports

Applications

  • U.S. Passport Card: This webpage offers general information on passports, costs, applications, and security. If you know little about passports, it is a great place to start.
  • Application: First time Applicants: Pay close attention to the Special Requirements links for specifics for both minors and other categories as well. Then move through the seven steps the guide displays to correctly apply for your passport.
  • Application: Minors Under Age 16: Use this guide to specifically prepare for a minor passport, one of the most common special categories for passport books. There are nine steps to complete, so parents take careful note.
  • Where to Apply: This section includes useful links on how to submit an application and what regional agencies you can use to help.
  • Passport Fees: Here are several charts that explain what getting, or renewing, a passport will cost you. Find the section that fits your situation, and use the link to access the proper form.

Renewals

  • Renew Passport: This guide shows you an easy checklist for renewing a passport by mail. Read carefully for tips on postage, qualifications, and similar information.
  • Replace Your Limited U.S. Passport Book: If you ordered only a limited passport less than a year ago, this guide shows you what you need to reapply. The section further down is for older limited passport renewal for older passports.

Problems

  • Change or Correct Passport: Errors happen. If your name or data is wrong, this guide gives you links to forms that will show you how to correct it. If you change your name, you can use similar forms. If you have another question, consult the FAQ.
  • How to Get Your Passport in a Hurry: This article goes into more depth concerning expedited services for those who need their passports in a matter of days. It may not be instant, but this is the fastest way to get a passport if you do not have one.

Theft and Fraud

  • Information on Compromised Identities: Start here for information on what to do if you think your identity may have been stolen through passport problems. Be sure to consult the FTC and FBI links provided to pursue legal action or support.
  • Lost or Stolen Passports: Use this contact information to report a stolen passport by phone or form. Read the Important Notes section for further warnings.

Extra Information

  • Archives.gov: Passport Applications: This article explains the different categories of passports and what type of information they can provide. It is especially useful for genealogy research and similar projects.
  • Homeland Security: Crossing U.S. Borders: Homeland Security wants to keep you safe and informed – hence this list of passport requirements, divided into different types of border crossing. Depending on your trip, you may need to offer different documents.
  • The History of Passports: This article gives an interesting overview of how passports were first used in the United States. If you are curious, it is a fun and informative read.

Visas

General Definitions

  • What is a U.S. Visa?: Start here to learn more about visas, how they work, and what kinds there are. U.S. visas are generally divided into immigrant and nonimmigrant versions.
  • Visa Bulletin: This site gives information on cut-off dates for visa availability and other key information. Locate the most recent bulletin and explore specific cut-off dates for different situations.

Applications

  • U.S. Visitor Visas: Read this overview and the following information on qualifying countries and the application process to find out more about the very common visitor visa. This is a good place to start if you know someone who wants to travel to the U.S. for a short period of time.
  • Employment Visas: Here you can find a number of different employment visas, categorized by the type of employment. This page has a collection of links based on what type of job that applicants have, from professionals in the corporate world to religious workers.
  • Investor Visas: The “E” visa is for use by companies, especially international companies that have many reasons to send key representatives and employees to different countries for client meetings or negotiations.
  • Study Visas: These visas are designed for students and student exchange programs. Choose the links for information on application, depending on the type of student or program.
  • Family Visas: Find more information here on various application processes and requirements for different family visas. Family visas are divided by spouse, child, sibling, and other categories.

Renewals

  • Renewing a Visa in the U.S.: While people cannot apply for a new visa directly in the U.S., they can apply at embassies in their home country. This article provides more information on the process.

Theft and Fraud

  • Fraud Warning: This article and FAQ takes you through the possibility of fake visa program messages and letters that try to extract payments or personal information. It includes easy authentication tips to avoid this trap.
  • Green Card / Diversity Lottery Scams: There is a diversity lottery, but it follows very strict rules and there are no fees for entry. Scams usually include fees or other false requirements. Read the article to learn more.

Extra Information

  • ESTA Application Form: Tourists and short-term travels who are heading to the U.S. for business reasons should use this ESTA site to sign up for the required pass. This is the UK version, but ESTAs are available from other countries, too.
  • Immihelp: Visitors Visa Overview: This article includes a list of positive and negative factors that play into deciding a visa application.  It is worth a quick scan as you research the visa process.
  • Visa Statistics: Read the most recent report to find a variety of news, tables, and statistics on visas issued in the United States. It may not be especially useful for application, but it is interesting if you want to watch for trends and changes.

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