Although the information on this page applies mainly to those living in the U.S., so be sure to check with your own government if you are a citizen of another country. Pay special attention to when your passport expires...it must be valid for at least 6 months after your date of return to the U.S.
And, if you are living in the U.S. but a citizen of another country, then read below for information about re-entry in to the U.S.
You will need a passport to travel outside the U.S. including Mexico and Canada. On most cruises you also need a passport with just a few exceptions. So our advice is to go ahead and get one--they are good for 10 years and you never know when you might have an opportunity to travel outside the country. For children, passports are normally good for 5 years.
If you already have a passport check the expiration date. If you have travel plans in the near future be sure that the expiration date is at least 6 months after your scheduled return date. Otherwise the airline may deny you boarding!
If you reside in the U.S. but are not a citizen (you have a Green Card) you must take your green card with you as well as the passport from your country of citizenship. Your passport will allow you to exit the U.S. but you need to show your green card as well as your passport in order to re-enter the U.S. Leave your green card at home? Click here to see what can happen--it won't be pleasant.
If you are applying for your U.S. passport try to allow at least 8 weeks to be on the safe side (it should take less). If you have less time, then ask to have it expedited. That will entail paying extra for Express Mail service which will prbably cut the time down to a couple of weeks.
When supplying a birth certificate to the passport office, be sure it has a raised seal. Otherwise it will not be accepted.
If you live near a passport office, you can also make an appointment to travel there in person. This will naturally speed things up.
And, if you are really short on time and need your passport in less than two weeks there are private companies that will expedite the process for you. In effect you give them a power of attorney to act in your behalf regarding the passport process and they will physically stand in line at the passport office to process your application. These companies provide a valuable service, but they are not cheap. Most charge $150 and up depending upon how soon you need your passport. Needless to say, it might easily be worth it if you need your passport in a hurry.
Most countries do not require a Visa for entrance if you hold a valid passport from the U.S., Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom. There are some exceptions such as Egypt and Russia. If you hold a passport from another country then be sure to find out what the visa requirements are. This can sometimes be a lengthy process so do this ahead of time.
In Europe there is a visa known as the Shengen Visa, which covers 25 countries in Europe. You only need one visa for entry in to all 25 Shengen countries but will need to specify if it is a single-entry or multiple-entry visa. For example if you going in to Italy then on to Medjugorje and then back through Italy you would need a multiple-entry visa. You should apply for your Shengen Visa to the country you will be entering first in the case that you are going to more than one Shengen country.