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It is a good idea to apply for a passport 3 months before you plan to travel. If you also need a visa, allow more time as you must have a valid passport before applying for a visa. This is very important in order to insure entering and exiting other countries. If this is your first passport, you must apply in person. When applying, bring with you proof of U.S. citizenship (usually a certified copy of your birth certificate, previous U.S. passport, a naturalization certificate, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad); 2 identical recent front-view photos (2" x 2"); a completed passport application (Form DSP-11); proof of identity, such as a valid drivers license or other photo or physical-description I.D.; and the appropriate fee for a passport valid for 10 years. You can apply at any passport agency or at one of the many clerks of court or post offices designated to accept passport applications. Your birth certificate or other documents will be returned to you by mail, along with your new passport.
Many countries require a visa--an endorsement or stamp placed in your passport by a foreign government that permits you to visit that country for a specified purpose and a limited time.
A number of countries require you to obtain a visa from the embassy or consular office nearest to your residence. The addresses of foreign consular offices can be found in telephone directories of large cities or in the Congressional Directory, available in most libraries; or you may write to the appropriate embassy in Washington, D.C. and request the address of their consulate that is nearest to you. You can also obtain the Department of State booklet, Foreign Entry Requirements, which lists visa and other entry requirements and locations of all foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. Apply for your visa directly to the embassy or consulate of each country you plan to visit or ask your travel agent to assist you with visas. U.S. passport agencies cannot obtain visas for you.
An increasing number of countries are establishing entry requirements regarding AIDS testing, particularly for long-term residents and students. Check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you plan to visit for the latest information.
The Internet or local library can help you find the latest information regarding entry requirements.