After a brief hiatus I shall soon be up in the air again and since I’ll be flying internationally I will need a current passport to do so. A passport is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever own. With a passport you can go almost anywhere in the world. More importantly, it allows you to come back home, to the United States. Do you have a passport? It’s like a magic key that unlocks the borders of hundreds of wonderful countries. It’s like having a season ticket to all of the world’s biggest events. Your favorite music star is giving a concert in London? You can go, mate. Want to ski in Canada? No problem, eh? Are you in the mood for a little Fettuccine Alfredo in Rome? Ciao, bella. If you have children, I believe that it’s one of the greatest gifts that you can give to them. A passport offers an open invitation to the world, to learning and enjoying new experiences and opportunities and hey, while we’re at it – a shot at world peace. Nothing knocks down the barriers of prejudice like meeting the people of a different country. Quite frankly, at $130.00 plus the cost of your photo, it’s one heck of a bargain. For literally only $13.00 a year, you can go almost anywhere you want to go. You now need a passport any time that you’re crossing a U.S. border, even to our adjacent neighbors, Mexico and Canada. However, the rules do allow for an enhanced Driver’s License if you live in New York are driving to Canada. Many years ago you were able to fly to the Caribbean with just a Birth Certificate and picture identification such as a Driver’s License, but today you need a passport. It appears, however, that fewer than 46 percent of Americans hold passports. I’m proud that New York State tops that rate at 57% bested only by New Jersey where 62% of their population has the ability to cross our borders at will. If I have convinced you to think about getting a passport allow me to offer some advice.
Plan ahead. It can take time to receive your new or renewed passport. I usually advise that you submit your application a minimum of 6-8 weeks before your departure date. Earlier is even better. Trust me when I say it will reduce your stress level when you’re facing a rapidly approaching departure date
Get a good photo. This suggestion is really important and you should start by choosing your photographer wisely. That photo is going to be with you a long time. 10 years to be exact, staring back at you and being reviewed by officials who decide whether or not you get to enter their country. You might want to look like someone they would want to welcome across their border. You will also need to adhere to the following partial list of current parameters as shown on the travel.state.gov website but I do suggest that you visit the site for full details.
Your photo must be:
Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper
2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size (Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. )
Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open and taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis:
Photos copied or digitally scanned from driver’s licenses or other official documents are not acceptable. In addition, snapshots, magazine photos, low quality vending machine or mobile phone photos, and full-length photographs are not acceptable. You’ll want to consult the official website for other guidelines.
Final Advice. The third but most important piece of advice I can offer is simple but oh so important to keeping your dream of eternal youth alive. Under no circumstances should you compare your previous photo to the current one. Trust me, you’ll probably be setting yourself up for disappointment – or a reality check. There’s absolutely no denying the passage of time when comparing 2 usually less than flattering photos that were taken 10 years apart, side by side. Worse, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I actually pulled out the passport from 20 years back. That was just asking for trouble. “Yikes” was the only word that came to mind as I looked at a much younger version of myself compared to what I currently see in the morning mirror. Fortunately, I was distracted by reviewing the exit and entry stamps and spent some time reminiscing about those previous excursions. For my most recent photos I chose to utilize the services of On Location Studios. My line of thinking was that the professionals would surely be able to erase the ravages of passing time that have marched across my face. I begged photographer Al Nowak to let me lay down on the floor for the picture taking. My goal was to take advantage of gravity to smooth out my skin and help deny that which I choose to ignore in the mirror. Mr. Nowak mumbled something about being a professional but I got the last word by sneaking in a fairly neutral Mona Lisa-like smirk. In hindsight, maybe it’s not a bad thing to recognize that time is moving faster than you realize. Maybe it will help you to decide to finally make the plans that will take you to wherever it is you dream of visiting. Go ahead, get that passport. I’ll be happy to help you use it.