FAQ - Passport & Visa Questions

Questions About Passports

Questions About Birth Records

Questions About Child Passports

Visa Questions

Passport Card Questions

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What is a passport?

A passport is a travel document that serves as the ultimate form of proof for a person's citizenship. Passports are issued by the appropriate authoritative power of a country's government. U.S. passports are issued by the U.S. Passport Agency.

How/where can I obtain a certified copy of my U.S. birth certificate?

Your birth is registered with the state civil authorities where you were born; therefore you may contact your local state officials for details. You can also order one online at www.vitalcheck.com or call by phone: 1-800-255-2414.  Most authorities should be able to issue you a birth certificate immediately if you tell them that you need it to obtain a passport for immediate travel.

What is an E-Passport?

An Electronic Passport is the same as a traditional passport with the addition of a small integrated circuit embedded in the back cover. The chip stores:

  • The same data visually displayed on the data page of the passport;
  • A biometric identifier in the form of a digital image of the passport photograph, which will facilitate the use of face recognition technology at ports-of-entry;
  • The unique chip identification number; and
  • A digital signature to protect the stored data from alteration.

How long does it take to get a passport?

Swift Passport Services can Expedite your passport the same day the application is received.  We have a minimum one day turnaround time and a maximum 14 day turnaround time depending on which service you choose.  If you do not use an expediting service like Swift Passport, processing times can vary depending on workload and occasional unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, the Department of State encourages customers to expedite their applications if traveling in less than 10 weeks.

Who should maintain a valid U.S. passport?

Swift Passport Services recommends that the following U.S. citizens maintain valid U.S. passports. Those:

  • with family living or traveling abroad
  • thinking about a vacation abroad, or
  • With a job that could require international travel.

In the event of an emergency involving a family member abroad, a short-notice airfare bargain, or an unexpected business trip, already having a valid U.S. passport will save time, money and stress.

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Can I get a second valid passport if my current valid passport has stamps and or visas that will make me ineligible to enter another country?

Yes!  Your second valid passport will be valid for 1-2 years only and may only be used to travel to the country indicated when you apply.  Swift can help you obtain a second valid passport.

How many blank visa pages do I need to travel?

Some countries require your passport have two (2) to four (4) blank visa/stamp pages. Most airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement in not met. The 2 pages in the back of your passport ARE NOT visa pages.  Customs can legally send you back to the US if you arrive with a passport that does not have the required number of visa pages for the country.  You can add pages to your current passport if your passport does not have enough blank visa pages left.  See directions for extra visa pages

I lost my passport.  How do I obtain a new passport?

If your passport has been stolen or lost you will need to apply for a new passport and fill out government form DS-64 for lost or stolen passports.  Swift Passport can help you obtain a new passport if yours was lost or stolen.  You will be required to provide an old expired passport or your birth certificate to prove citizenship, and will need to get your application sealed before you send it to Swift Passport.

How long is a passport valid and when should I renew my passport?

If you were older than 16 when your passport was issued it is valid for 10 years.  Child passports are only valid for 5 years.  You will never renew a child passport; you will always have to apply for a NEW passport

The Issue Date of your passport can be found on the data page of your Passport Book or on the front of your Passport Card.

If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip. Most airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

If your passport expired less than 5 years ago, you may follow directions for passport renewal

I'm renewing my passport. Do I get the old one back?

Yes, we return the old, cancelled passport to you although it may be sent separately from your new passport. It is a good idea to keep it in a safe place as it is considered proof of your U.S. citizenship.

Do I have to provide my Social Security Number?

Section 6039E of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 6039E) requires you to provide your Social Security Number (SSN), if you have one, when you apply for a U.S. passport or renewal of a U.S. passport. If you have not been issued a SSN, enter zeros in box #5 of the passport application form you are completing. Contact the Social Security Administration to request a Number. If you are residing abroad, you must also provide the name of the foreign country in which you are residing. The U.S. Department of State must provide your SSN and foreign residence information to the Department of Treasury. If you fail to provide the information, you are subject to a $500 penalty enforced by the IRS. All questions on this matter should be directed to the nearest IRS office.

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How do I obtain copies of a previous passport application?

For information on how to obtain copies of your passport records you will need to contact the Passport Agency directly.

How do I get a certified copy of my birth certificate? 

Contact the county clerk in the state where you were born, show up to the county clerk where you were born, or order one from www.vitalchek.com.  If you go to the county you were born and notify them that you need to leave the country immediately, you may get a newly issued birth certificate that day.  A parent can show up on your behalf to collect a birth certificate. 

I was born abroad. How do I get a birth certificate proving my U.S. citizenship?

If one or both of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born abroad, your parent(s) should have registered your birth at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and, received a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, Form FS-240. This form is acceptable legal proof of birth and U.S. citizenship.

What should I do if my baby is born abroad?

As U.S. citizen parent(s), you should report your child's birth abroad as soon as possible to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to establish an official record of the child's claim to U.S. citizenship at birth. The official record will be the Consular Report of Birth of a Citizen of the United States of America, Form FS-240. This document, known as the Consular Report of Birth Abroad, is a basic United States citizenship document. An original FS-240 document will be given to you at the time registration is approved.

A Consular Report of Birth can only be prepared at a U.S. embassy or consulate. It cannot be prepared if the child has been brought back into the United States, or, if the person is 18 years of age or older at the time the application is made.

What do I do if there is no birth record on file for me?

If you were born in the U.S. and there is no birth record on file, you will need several different documents to substantiate your citizenship. You will need:

  • A letter from the Vital Statistics office of the state of your birth with your name and what years were searched for your birth record. An official of the Vital Statistics office needs to issue a letter of no record found.
  • In addition, you will need early public records to prove your birth in the U.S.

Do both parents need to be present when getting a passport authorized?

When you get your child's application sealed either both parents must be present with the child OR one parent must be present with the child AND must have a consent form from the second parent.  Swift passport can help you to obtain this form.  If one parent is deceased, a death certificate should be presented.  Be mindful of proving name changes.  If either parents or child have a different (changed) name than indicated on the birth certificate, proof of name change should be included.

My child is too young to sign his/her own passport. How do I sign my child's passport?

In the space provided for the signature, the mother or father must print the child's name and sign their own name. Then, in parenthesis by the parent's name, write the word (mother) or (father) so we know who signed for the child.

How do I get information about my child's passport, or, prevent passport issuance to my child?

Parents involved in international custody disputes may receive information about the United States passport of a minor from the Department of State, Passport Services.

Is it true that passport applications for minors under 16 require the consent of both parents and legal guardians?

Effective February 1, 2008, Public Law 106-113, Section 236 requires that U.S. passport applications for children under the age of 16 require both parents' or legal guardians' consent.   Both parents must appear with the child at the post office or county clerk to get the application sealed OR one parent may appear with the child and bring a consent form from the parent not present.  The consent form can be found under important forms on the Swift Passport Services website.

What is the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP)?

Separate from the Two-Parent Consent requirement for U.S. passport issuance for minors under the age of 14, parents may also request that their children's names be entered in the U.S. passport name-check system. The Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program provides:

  • Notification to parents of passport applications made on behalf of minor children, and
  • Denial of passport issuance if appropriate court orders are on file with CPIAP.

For more information, contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-9156, or, by fax at 202-736-9133.

What should I do if my baby is born abroad?

As U.S. citizen parent(s), you should report your child's birth abroad as soon as possible to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to establish an official record of the child's claim to U.S. citizenship at birth. The official record will be the Consular Report of Birth of a Citizen of the United States of America, Form FS-240. This document, known as the Consular Report of Birth Abroad, is a basic United States citizenship document. An original FS-240 document will be given to you at the time registration is approved

A Consular Report of Birth can only be prepared at a U.S. embassy or consulate. It cannot be prepared if the child has been brought back into the United States, or, if the person is 18 years of age or older at the time the application is made.

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What is a visa?

A visa is an authority issued by the embassy/consulate of a country that permits a traveler to visit that particular country. The majority of visas are stamped inside your passport. (A small number of visas are either separate documents to be carried with the passport or issued electronically.) Visas are issued with specific limitations regarding purpose of visit, length of stay, validity of visa, etc. It is the traveler's responsibility to obtain necessary visas before their travel.

How do I obtain a visa?

The Embassies and Consulates of various countries are authorized to grant visas. Appropriate visa documentation must be presented to the embassy/consulate in proper order for the visa to be issued. Swift Passport obtains visas on travelers' behalf by submitting proper visa documentation to the embassy/consulate. This eliminates the need for the traveler to visit, communicate and correspond directly with the embassy/consulate.

Do I need to send my actual passport?

Yes, for the majority of countries, a visa is stamped on a visa page inside your passport.

How long will it take to process my visa?

Various governments have strict and varied regulations on length of visa processing time. Please view the Visa Services section and select your country of travel to determine visa processing time.   

What is a visa invitation or confirmation?

Visa invitations /confirmations are documents approved by the Foreign Ministry of the country of travel which authorize a particular traveler to visit their country. Most often, they indicate specific information regarding the itinerary (dates of stay, name of hosting organization, cities of visit) as well as an official reference number and seal of approval. Required formats for invitations and confirmations vary per country.

Can I fax my passport copy and/or completed applications for issuance of a visa?

For the majority of countries, physical visa documentation that is unable to be faxed is required (i.e. actual passport, passport-type photographs).

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Why a Passport Card?

The Department of State has developed a Passport Card as a more portable and less expensive alternative to the traditional passport book. The passport card is a basic component of the PASS (People Access Security Service) system announced by Secretaries Rice and Chertoff in January 2006, and will meet the specific requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) to secure and expedite travel. WHTI is the Administration's plan to implement a provision of the Intelligence Reform Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which requires citizens of the United States, Canada, and Bermuda to have a passport or other designated document that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality to enter or re-enter the United States from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. According to the Department of Homeland Security, other documents such as registered traveler cards (NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST cards) will be acceptable under WHTI.

Why is there an execution fee for the Passport and Passport Card when I get my application sealed?

First time applicants, minors and those seeking to replace a lost or stolen passport must appear in person before a person authorized by the Secretary of State to give oaths to verify their passport applications. In order to offer American citizens convenient locations to apply for a passport, the Department of State authorizes Passport Acceptance Agents to accept passport applications on its behalf. American citizens can apply at more than 9,000 passport acceptance facilities, most of them with the U.S. Postal Service. Other government facilities include many state, county, township, and municipal offices as well public libraries and public universities.

The execution fee is to reimburse the acceptance facility for the cost of the service, which provides an incentive for them to act on behalf of the Department of State. The current cost of the execution fee is $25 depending on where you go to get your application sealed.

The execution fee applies to first-time applicants, children and replacements for lost or stolen passports. Since the execution fee does not apply when submitting Form DS-82, adult passport holders will pay only $20 for the card. When applying for both the book and the card on the same application, you pay only one execution fee.

Why can't I use the passport card to fly to Canada and Mexico?

The passport card is designed for the specific needs of border resident communities and is not a globally interoperable travel document as is the traditional passport book. The passport book is the appropriate travel document for most international travel.


How secure is the card?

Because the wallet-sized Passport Card does not offer as many opportunities to embed security features as a passport book, the Department has decided to use laser engraving and will include state-of-the-art security features to mitigate against the possibility of counterfeiting and forgery. We are taking every care to ensure that this Passport Card is as secure as current technology permits. There will be no personal information written to the RFID chip.

What is RFID Technology?

Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) has been used successfully along our land borders with Canada and Mexico since 1995 in the Department of Homeland Security's trusted traveler programs, such as NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST. U.S. border officials are able to expedite legitimate cross-border travel and trade of those trusted travelers who carry membership cards with vicinity read RFID chips that link to government databases. Membership in these programs currently exceeds 400,000.

RFID technology has been commercially available in one form or another since the 1970s. It can be found in car keys, highway toll tags, bank cards and security access cards. The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, who staff the ports of entry, anticipate that the speed of vicinity RFID will allow CBP officers, in advance of the traveler's arrival at the inspection booth, to quickly access information on the traveler from secure government databases, and allow for automated terrorist watch list checks without impeding traffic flow. In addition, they foresee that multiple cards can be read at a distance and simultaneously, allowing an entire car of people to be processed at once.

The RFID technology embedded in documents will not include any personally identifying information; only a unique number that can be associated with a record stored in a secure government database will be transmitted. Has the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) certified the Card Architecture as required by law?

As required by legislation (Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007, Sect. 546), NIST has reviewed the card architecture of the proposed passport card to be developed by the Department of State in response to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). On May 1, 2007, NIST informed the Departments of State and Homeland Security (DHS) that the proposed card architecture meets or exceeds the relevant international security standards and best practices for the technology that will be included in the card. To accommodate the Department of Homeland Security's operational needs at the ports of entry, the Department of State passport card will include Generation 2 RFID vicinity read technology. NIST notified Congress on May 3, 2007, that it had certified the security of the card architecture. Is there a threat from skimming personal information or tracking American citizens?

The RFID technology used in the passport card will enable the card to be read at a distance by an authorized CBP reader mounted alongside the traffic lane. The chip contains no biographic data as is the case with the e-passport. The chip will have a unique number linking the card to a secure database maintained by DHS and State. However, to address concerns that passport card bearers can be tracked by this technology, we are requiring that the vendor provide a sleeve that will prevent the card from being read while inside it.

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