Required documents vary from country to country, but you will need one or more of the following: a passport or other proof of citizenship, a visa or a tourist card. A few countries also require evidence that you have enough money for your trip and/or your continuing and return transportation tickets.
-- U.S. citizens need passports to depart or enter the United States and to enter most foreign countries. Exceptions include short-term travel between the United States and Mexico and Canada.
-- Apply several months in advance of your planned departure whenever possible. Passport agencies will expedite issuance in cases of genuine, documented emergencies.
-- For your first passport, you must present, in person, a completed passport application form (DSP-11) at a passport agency or at a post office or federal or state court authorized to accept passport applications (see accompanying list). If you have had a previous passport and wish to obtain another, you may be eligible to apply by mail (obtain Form DSP-82, Application for Passport by Mail).
-- Documentation required to obtain a passport includes:
1. A properly completed passport application.
2. Proof of U.S. citizenship. Use a previously-issued passport or, if you are applying for your first passport, a birth certificate (filed shortly after birth or certified with the registrar's signature and raised, impressed, embossed or multi-colored seal). If you can not obtain a birth certificate, submit a notice from the state registrar that no birth record exists, accompanied by the best secondary evidence possible. If you were born abroad, you can use a certificate of naturalization, a certificate of citizenship, a Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States (Form FS-240) or a Certificate of Birth (Form FS-545 or DS-1350).
3. Proof of identity. The following items are acceptable if they contain your signature and they readily identify you by physical description or photograph: a previous U.S. passport; a certificate of naturalization or citizenship; a valid driver's license; a government identification card.
4. Photographs. Present two identical photographs of yourself, sufficiently recent to be a good likeness. They must not exceed 2 2 inches in size. The image size from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head must be between 1-1 3/8 inches. Photographs can be in black & white or color.
-- Fees: If you are over 18 and must apply in person the total charge is $42 for a 10-year passport; $27 for a five-year passport if you are younger than 18. The fee for those who apply by mail is $35.
-- Where to apply for your passport:
Los Angeles Passport Agency
Room 13100, 11000 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, 90024-3614
Hours: Weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Recorded information: (213) 209-7070
Public inquiries: (213) 209-7075
701 N. Loara Ave., Anaheim
Information: (714) 520-2605
1350 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton
Information: (714) 525-3893
10441 Stanford Ave., Garden Grove
Information: (714) 537-1312
6771 Warner Ave. Huntington Beach
Information: (714) 847-5665
24001 Calle de Magdalena, Laguna Hills
Information: (714) 837-1530
2201 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana
Information: (714) 543-8018
-- Many countries require tourists and business travelers to have a visa, even for short visits (see accompanying chart). In most instances, you must obtain necessary visas before you leave the United States. Apply directly to the embassies or nearest consulates of the countries you plan to visit, or consult a travel agent.
-- Fees: Varies from country to country.
-- If the country you plan to visit requires a tourist card, you can obtain one from that country's embassy or consulate, from an airline serving the country, or at the point of entry.
-- A country may require international certificates of vaccination against yellow fever and cholera. Medication for malaria and other preventative measures are advisable for certain areas. Immunizations are not required for return to the United States.
Source: United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.