A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid US passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries.
The best advice on when to apply for a US passport is to apply now! And if you plan to study abroad next semester, the advice becomes apply now and expedite your application!
Changes in passport requirements for travel have significantly increased processing times. Currently, the US State Department estimates that the average time to process an application for a new passport or to renew an existing passport is 4−6 weeks. So, if you apply this weekend, you should receive your passport within two months—but you may also need to apply for a student visa to study abroad as well, which can also take up to 8 weeks, depending on the country. For those who pay an additional fee to expedite their passport application, the estimated processing time is 3 weeks.
See below for detailed instructions on how to apply for a US passport.
Some countries require that U.S. citizens apply for and receive an entrance visa, depending on the length and purpose of their stay. A visa is an official document giving permission to enter a country and is granted by the government of the country you wish to enter. The visa may be in the form of a stamp imprinted on a page in your passport or may be an official document that includes a photograph.
If you are planning to study abroad in a country for an extended period of time, you may need a student visa or residency permit. (Note: Some students participating in programs that travel through a number of countries may need to apply for multiple visas.) In most instances, you will need to receive the visa before you depart.
Note: If your host country requires that you obtain a visa in order to study abroad there, you must do so -- this is non-negotiable.
Visa requirements vary from country to country. Information relating to all visas may be obtained from the nearest embassy or consulate of the country or countries in which you will study and/or travel. (Many countries have consulates in Chicago, which is convenient for IWU students.) You can learn about visa requirements for your destination(s) by visiting the U.S. State Department Web site.
When you receive notification of acceptance to your study abroad program, the program provider should inform you of visa requirements and the application process. In addition, your program may need to provide you with certain documents that you are required to submit with the visa application.
Some countries require that you submit your visa application in person at the appropriate consulate, and that you make an appointment to do so; if this is the case for the country in which you plan to study, you should contact the consulate sooner rather than later (remember that every student who wishes to study abroad in that country will also be seeking an appointment and that the consulate will be flooded with requests).
You may apply for a passport in person at an approved passport facility. In Bloomington, you can apply in person at
- the Bloomington Post Office, 1211 N. Towanda Avenue (south of Emerson)
- the McLean Country Circuit Court, 114 W. Front Street
Please note that if you are under 18, parental consent may be requested and a parent may need to accompany you when you apply.
To apply for a passport, you will need to do the following:
- Go online to travel.state.gov/passport/forms/forms_847.html and complete the online application (Form DS-11).
- Print off the completed application, but do not sign the application. When you take your application and all supporting materials to the passport acceptance facility, you will then be directed to sign the form in the presence of a witness.
- Provide proof of US citizenship. Note that all documentation submitted as evidence of citizenship will be returned with the issued passport. Citizenship can be proved with one of the following documents:
- A Certified Birth Certificate issued by the city, county, or state. A certified birth certificate has a registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office
- A previously issued US passport (mutilated, altered, or damaged passports are not acceptable as evidence of US citizenship)
- A Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth (see travel.state.gov/passport/get/first/first_825.html for more details)
- A Naturalization Certificate
- A Certificate of Citizenship
- Present proof of your identity. The following documents are acceptable forms of proof:
- Previous US passport (mutilated, altered, or damaged passports are not acceptable as evidence of identity)
- Naturalization Certificate
- Current, valid driver’s license, government ID, or military ID
- Provide two passport photos—you may get approved passport photos at Walgreen’s, Kinko's, or the post office. (NOTE: You will likely need to submit additional photos with your study abroad application and for a visa application if an entry visa is required for study abroad in your host country, so you may want to have additional photos taken at the same time.)
- Provide a Social Security Number.
- Pay the $140 fee ($110, if you are renewing) and $25 execution fee. We strongly recommend that you also pay the $60 fee to expedite your application if you plan to travel soon or if you need to apply for a student visa. You should also consider paying for overnight delivery service both to submit your application and to secure its speedy delivery once it has been issued.
Once you have submitted your application, you can check the status of your application online at http://travel.state.gov/passport/status/status_2567.html.