Postmaster: U.S. passport is key to international travel


Ocean View Postmaster Mike Behringer this week offered information on how to go about applying for a passport at the Ocean View Post Office.

“Our visitors often use the summer season to apply for passports for the entire family,” Behringer said, noting that the Bethany Beach Post Office does not process passport applications.

According to Behringer, the Department of State’s Passport Services Directorate issues U.S. passports to traveling Americans. Passports are a request to foreign governments to permit Americans to travel, and also allow them to re-enter the United States.

A passport book or card is proof of identity and U.S. citizenship, and they have slightly different uses. People can use:

• The passport book for all international travel by air, land or sea.

• The passport card to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda; and at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. U.S. citizens cannot use the passport card for international air travel. However, the wallet-size passport card is considered more convenient and less expensive than the passport book.

Whether someone plans to apply for a first-time passport book, passport card or both, submitting a passport application is easy, Behringer said.

“The U.S. Postal Service makes it convenient to apply for a passport with the Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler (RCAS) tool. Customers now have the opportunity to self-schedule a first-time passport application appointment online or on a mobile device at usps.com/scheduler.”

The RCAS tool guides people through the appointment process in four steps: (1) choose a day; (2) choose a location; (3) choose a time; and (4) provide their details.

The RCAS tool will display available appointment times for participating post office locations that offer passport appointment services within the selected radius. Users will receive notifications of their scheduled appointment.

Those renewing a passport must do so by mail; they do not need to make an appointment. They can simply take their documents and payment to the nearest post office and mail everything to the Department of State using Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express service, Behringer advised, offering a number of passport and international travel tips:

• Apply for your passport book or card early.

• Check the expiration date of your current passport. U.S. passports are issued to adults for 10 years and children under the age of 16 for 5 years.

He also advised people to visit the Department of State website (travel.state.gov/content/travel.html) to:

• Find out how to apply for or renew a passport;

• Get passport fees and forms;

• Track an application; and

• Report a passport lost or stolen.

People can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at step.state.gov/step/. U.S. citizens and nationals who travel and live abroad can use the free service to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.