Q. I recently became a US citizen through naturalization and want to obtain a passport to travel. How do I go about acquiring one, and what if I have a family situation back home that requires me to travel on short notice?
A. While USCIS gives you a Certificate of Naturalization to prove your US citizenship after you naturalize, that document does not permit you to travel. You must obtain a US passport through the State Department, and for first time applicants, you must apply in-person at a passport acceptance facility, usually your nearby US Postal Service office.
Logistically, the passport application is relatively straightforward. You must fill out the form (DS-11); make a photocopy of your Certificate of Naturalization as proof of your citizenship; and a photocopy of proof of identification, which can be a valid foreign passport, or valid driver’s license. The passport application fee for an adult currently costs $130, and you must pay a separate $35 fee for them to execute your request. These fees should be paid separately by check or by money order payable to the US Department of State. You will bring all of these materials, along with the original documents and a passport-style photograph of yourself to the location where you will submit your application.
The easiest place to apply for your passport is your local US Post Office. The Post Office requires you to schedule an appointment, which you can do online at usps.com/international/passports.htm. Some post offices will also take your photo for you at the time of the appointments, but you should check to ensure that you do not need to get one ahead of time.
According to the State Department, routine processing times require six to nine weeks for them to mail you the passport. However, you can pay an additional $60 for them to expedite the processing such that it will take between three to five weeks. These estimates do not include mailing times, so in actuality your passport is likely to take between nine to eleven weeks, or four to six weeks if expedited.
What about for individuals with pressing travel needs, for example a family member suddenly suffers a terrible accident? In these circumstances where you have urgent international travel within fourteen days, you must call 1-877-487-2778 to schedule an appointment at the Boston Passport Agency. The State Department offers two types of appointments: Life-or-Death Emergency Service and Urgent Travel Service.
If you need your foreign passport to return to your home country, you lack any valid passports, including from your country of birth, and you urgently need to leave the US and return at a later date, then you should consult the website of your country’s department of foreign affairs, its embassy, or its consulate in the US. Those representatives will be able to provide additional information on emergency passport issuance. Irish citizens can contact the Consulate-General of Ireland, Boston at 617-267-9330 or consulategeneralofirelandboston.org.
Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform the general public, not to advise in individual cases. All law, including immigration law, is always subject to change. If you seek legal advice you can contact Rian’s immigration legal staff at 617-984-6542.
Rian Immigrant Center
One State Street, Suite 800 Boston, MA 02109
Telephone (617) 542-7654 Website: riancenter.org