Planning Ahead

Preparing For Foreign Travel

People are generally aware that a passport is required to travel outside the United States. If you plan foreign travel and do not currently have a passport, this is the information you will need. 

Applying for a Passport

The U.S. Department of State issues both passport books and passport cards.  Passport cards are considerably cheaper, but their use is limited.  U.S. passport books are valid for all international travel.  Passport cards are not valid for international air travel. They are valid only for land or sea border crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

    U.S. Passports are issued only to U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals.  You can fill out your application online, but you are required to go to a passport office to process your application.  In Maricopa County, the Clerk of the Superior Court lists passport office locations on its website: www.clerkofcourt.maricopa.govWhen you go to the passport office, bring the following documents:

1.  Completed passport application,
2.  Proof of U.S. citizenship such as a certified copy of your birth certificate or previous U.S. passport. If your birth certificate was filed more than one year after your birth, it must be accompanied by other supporting evidence such as:  a hospital birth record, early baptismal or circumcision record, early school records, insurance files, and other records containing your full name. In addition to these pieces of supporting evidence, you may submit notarized affidavits of older relatives who can attest to your birth and identity.
3.  Proof of Identity.  You must provide proof of your identity such as your driver’s license, previous passport, proof of naturalization, certificate of citizenship, military ID card or government employee ID card. Your proof of identification must contain a photo and your signature.
4.  A passport photo taken in the past 6 months that is in color and 2x2 inches in size.
5.  The required fees. Passport Book:  $135 for applicants 16 years of age or over, $105 for applicants under 16. Passport card:  $55 for applicants 16 or over, $40 for applicants under 16.

Renewing a Passport

  You can renew your passport by mail if:
 1.  Your most recent passport is submitted with your application.
 2.  It is undamaged other than normal wear and tear.
 3.  It was issued when you were 16 years or older.
 4.  It was issued within the past 15 years.
 5.  It was issued in your current name (or with documentation of your name change, such as an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order.)

    You can complete the application (form DS-82) online, print it, and mail it with your most recent passport, name change documents if applicable, a passport photo, and the required fees. The fee for renewal of a passport book by mail is $110; the fee for renewal of a passport card is $30.

Getting Ready to Travel

    There are a number of things the wise traveler considers before leaving the country. First, if you have an existing passport, check the expiration date to be sure it is still valid. Do the same for all family members traveling with you.

    Read up on the countries you plan to visit. Find out about visa requirements, local customs and laws, and the availability of medical care. Be aware that women and people from the LGBT community may face both cultural and legal restrictions in some places.

    Find out if there are any Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts for any of the countries you plan to visit. You need to know what security issues you may encounter. Also, check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your destination country for the latest security messages.

    Find out about health precautions or communicable disease alerts in the area.  Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and WHO (World Health Organization) provide information about health precautions in your area of travel. They also provide lists of recommended vaccinations for your destination country. Also, it is a good idea to obtain a letter from your doctor for the prescription medications you are taking with you.  The letter should describe the medical conditions you have and the medications prescribed for each one. Always travel with your medications in the original container. A bunch of multicolored pills in a daily or weekly pill organizer may be confiscated by local authorities. Make sure all the medications you are carrying are legal in your destination country. In some places, having prescription narcotic pain medications can make you subject to arrest.

    Be prepared to handle money in the countries you plan to visit.  Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel plans to avoid problems with ATM withdrawals and credit card transactions overseas.  Know the exchange rate before you go, and familiarize yourself with the local currency.  You need to understand the value of the various coins and bills so you can make intelligent purchases. You also need to know how credit card transactions are handled in the countries you visit and avoid using credit cards in places where security may be lax. It is usually a good idea to exchange some U.S. currency for that of your destination country before you leave the U.S.

    Check to see if your health insurance will cover you in a foreign country.  If you find that it does, make certain you take your health insurance card and a claim form with you on the trip. You need to know that many health insurance carriers will pay reasonable and necessary expenses for health care abroad, but they will not pay for a medical evacuation back to the U.S.   BE AWARE!  If you are on Medicare, you are not covered abroad.  Most likely, your Medicare supplement insurance won’t cover you either. You may want to think about purchasing health insurance for foreign travel if your health insurance carrier does not provide the coverage you want. Check with the American Association of Retired Persons or your local travel agent for suggestions on travel insurance.

    As a safety precaution, make plans to stay connected to family and friends back in the U.S. Provide a copy of your itinerary to someone at home. Call every few days to let your family and friends know where you are and that you are okay. If you deviate from your itinerary and take an unexpected side trip, let someone know. It is also a good idea to carry emergency contact information with you so that emergency responders and local officials know who to contact if something happens to you overseas.

    Look up information on the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country or countries you plan to visit. Carry Embassy or Consulate contact information with you both in English and the local language. You can obtain this information from the U.S. Department of State by calling (888) 407-4747 or (202) 501-4444. Do some research so that you know what the U.S. State Department can and cannot do for you if you run into problems in a foreign country.

    When you travel to a foreign country, you are hoping for an enjoyable and educational experience. The best way to make that happen is to be well prepared and to have a good understanding of the conditions you can expect to encounter. Happy traveling!



“Application for a U.S. Passport,” U.S. Department of State,, Accessed 19 Sept. 2016.

“How to Apply for a Passport.” U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs,, Accessed 19 Sept. 2016.

“Passport Book vs. Passport Card.” U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs,, Accessed 19 Sept. 2016.

“Travelers Checklist.” U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs,, Accessed 19 Sept. 2016.

“Your Health Abroad.” U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs,, Accessed 19 Sept. 2016.


This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.