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Traveling to foreign countries is a very popular vacation for families today. It is a wonderful learning experience for children and a great opportunity for adults to see places they have only dreamed of seeing. But to travel to a foreign country everyone, even an infant, will need a passport.

You will need to apply for your first passport in person at a regional branch of the passport office. Most phone directories will have this office listed under government listings if there is one in your area. When there is no such facility in your area you can contact the passport office in Washington D. C. to ask where to apply. Most larger cities will have a passport office and you can check with information at your local telephone office to find the one closest to you. If you have plenty of time for planning your trip you might prefer to write the passport office at Washington Passport Agency, 1425 K Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20524, to get the information you need.

When you apply for a passport you will need a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or a consular report of you birth. You will also need some form of identification such as a drivers license that will include your photo or description and signature. If you are applying for an infant or unlicensed minor you can get a picture identification from your local drivers license bureau for a small fee. Bank cards or credit cards with your photograph are considered unacceptable forms of identification. You will also need two 2 X 2 photographs of the yourself or the person applying for the passport. Vending machine pictures and snap shots are unacceptable so it is best to have these done by a photographer who specializes in passports. In some cases when you are using a traveling agency they will be able to take or arrange for your passport photographs. Be sure and ask yours if they provide this service. You should have extra photographs taken since it is possible you might need them for visas or international driving permits.

Once you have provided the proper identification you will be asked to fill out a passport application and pay a fee. Be prepared to pay this fee in cash, check or by the preferred method, which is a money order. Once this is done an official will swear you in. In most cases your passport will be mailed to your home. Be sure and ask since occasionally it is possible for you to pick it up at the passport office.

Passports need to be renewed before they expire, although if yours has expired but was issued in the last eight years, a new one can be obtained by mail. You will need to pick up a renewal application from the passport office, post office or a local travel agency. Once you have filled it out it should be mailed with your current passport, two recent identical 2 X 2 photographs and the required fee. In most cases it will take approximately three weeks to receive your new or renewed passport. To date, passports are valid for ten years if you are 18 or older. Minor children's passports are valid for 5 years and should be renewed by the same process as an adults.