The Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Visa’

The 8 questions you need to ask before booking your next vacation

Whether you’re making your vacation reservations yourself or working with a travel agent, there are some important questions travelers need to ask before putting their deposit down. I want to share just a few of them with you today.

I gathered some of the most common questions our travelers ask the Friendly Planet team, and I’ve also included some of the insights our travelers often share in return.

If you’re making your own travel arrangements, ask yourself:

  • Will I need a visa? This is absolutely the #1 question you should ask, whether you’re making your own reservations or working with an agent. Requirements for visas differ based on your destination and nationality, so it’s important to know what rules you’ll be subject to. The U.S. State Department website gives country-specific information on travel visas for Americans, and that’s a good place to start to see what’s needed for your trip. You can also do a quick check on our website by following this link. Visa Information for Every Country
  • Will I need any special vaccinations? It’s also important to learn whether or not you’ll need any specific vaccinations before traveling abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has travel notices, clinic information, and destination-specific vaccine requirements on its website. You should also check with your physician for requirements you might need.
  • When is the best time of year to travel to my destination? It is summer in the United States right now — so that means it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. And while it’s warm here, it’s the rainy season in Africa and it’s winter in Argentina. So make sure you do your research to learn about the weather in your chosen destination to know when the best time to visit is. This weather chart can be a good starting place to see what the seasons are like where you’re intending to go. (more…)

Passport and visa pages fees to increase: What you should know

The U.S. Department of State is raising passport fees on July 13. Here’s a breakdown of the increases.

  • Adult: $100 to $135
  • Adult renewal: $75 to $110
  • Minor: $85 to $105
  • Additional visa pages: $0 to $82 

We covered how the Department of State was contemplating these increases back in March. The public was given a period of time to submit comments, during which the American Society of Travel Agents and other organizations expressed concerns over the proposed increases.

As you can see above, the biggest jump comes in the additional visa pages category. Visa pages are the pages in your passport that are stamped every time you enter and exit a country.

In some cases, you need to get a visa prior to visiting a country, and this is where it is pasted. Other times, the visa is stamped into your passport upon arrival at your destination. In any case, you need blank visa pages in order to enter another country.

If you don’t travel that often, you’ll probably never have to order more. But if you travel out of the U.S. once a year or more, you might need more blank visa pages before your passport expires.

If you have fewer than four pages left in your passport, make sure you order more before July 13 to avoid having to pay the new fee, otherwise you’ll soon have to pay $82 for the pages that cost nothing today. Until July 13, you’ll only have to pay for shipping, unless you want your visa page additions expedited.

It’s very simple to request extra pages. Just fill out Form DS-4085 and mail your passport along with the form to the address listed on it. When you package your personal documents, use a Tyvek envelope or a plastic bag to make sure they stay dry. You’ll want to use a traceable delivery method such as FedEx. You don’t want to risk losing your passport in the mail!

Once it’s sent, your passport will be returned with more visa pages in four to six weeks. If you don’t have a passport as of yet, flip back to a previous post where I show you how to apply for a U.S. passport. You only have one week left before fees go up, so get moving!

How to apply for a U.S. passport

What’s the one thing that practically everybody needs at some point and most people don’t have? And you can’t say money.

Times up! The answer: a passport. It doesn’t exactly jump to mind as a necessary piece of personal documentation, unless you have to take an unexpected trip abroad for a business meeting, a family situation, or a vacation.

Honestly, even if you don’t plan to leave the country, a passport makes for an excellent form of identification. You never know when it will come in handy. In fact, you even need one now to go to Canada.

Figuring out all the things you need can be daunting. Everything is located at the U.S. Department of State’s website, but I’ve tried to make it easier for you by distilling the pertinent information right here. Here’s how to apply for a U.S. passport.

First, get “Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport” and fill it out. You’ll find it online or you can pick one it up in person at your post office or some other municipal government building.

Fill out the form and bring it to a passport acceptance facility. You have to apply for a passport in person. You cannot mail the form in. I went to the Passport Office in Philadelphia, but you can just as easily go to your post office.

You’ll need to bring three items with you: proof of citizenship, identification, and a recent photograph. You’ll need your birth certificate to prove you are a U.S. citizen. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to find something that will work just as well. For example, certificate of citizenship, baptismal certificate, census record, early school record, or family bible record are all acceptable.

Next you’ll need identification. You can use a valid driver’s license, a previously issued U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, or a current government or military I.D. Lastly, you’ll need a photo. You can get that taken anywhere, including Walgreen’s, where I got mine taken in less than five minutes. Remember, you don’t have to look like a movie star in your photo, just be recognizable. And yes, you can definitely have your photo taken in color.

When you get your photo, it’s a good idea to purchase some extras. Chances are you’re going to need visas at some point, and it’s cheaper to buy a few additional photos and keep them to use as needed. When everything is signed and verified, your application will be processed, and you’ll receive your passport in the mail four to six weeks later.

If you’re under 16 and need a passport or want to get one for your child, the same steps apply but with a few slight alterations. The biggest difference is that the minor must apply in person with both parents or a guardian.

The parents or guardian must also submit evidence of their relationship to the minor. This can be proven through the minor’s certified U.S. birth certificate, certified foreign birth certificate, or their report of birth abroad with both parents’ names. Also acceptable are an adoption decree with adopting parents’ names, court order establishing custody, or court order establishing guardianship.

If you’re anxious to know where your passport is in the application process after you’ve applied, you can check the status of your U.S. passport application online. When it finally arrives, sign it right away. Then make a couple of nice, crisp photocopies of the signature and photo pages. File away one copy, and put the other one in your wallet. This is in case you lose your passport, but I’ll talk about what to do if that happens in a later post.

If you’re considering getting a passport, I suggest applying very soon. I told you before that the fees for applying for a passport and other services might be increasing substantially in the near future. So save yourself the few extra bucks and get it taken care of now.

If you have any questions, the U.S. Department of State has comprehensive list of FAQs or you can write to me. In addition to telling you what to do if your passport gets lost or stolen, I will also cover how to renew your passport, and how to add visa pages to your passport in upcoming posts.

Update your passport now, or it’ll cost you

While nothing has been set in stone, it’s very likely that the U.S. Department of State will increase fees for new passport applications and renewals, as well as other services. If you’ve been procrastinating getting a passport or getting one renewed, don’t wait. The increases are substantial.

Here’s what they’re proposing. The cost of a new passport will increase from $100 to $135 for adults and from $85 to $105 for minors. Renewals will increase from $75 to $110 for adults and from $60 to $80 for minors. Travelers who need extra visa pages could soon pay $82. Currently, this service is free.

While no formal implementation date has been given for the changes, the U.S. Department of State has indicated that it intends to implement the new fees once it has had time to consider public comments. The public comment period ends on March 11.

ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) will be filing comments on March 11, urging restraint in fee changes. If you also feel strongly about the new fees, you can submit your comment on the U.S. Department of State’s Web site. Traveling is expensive. If we get a say in not increasing these fees, we should take that opportunity.