A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. Only the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the authority to grant, issue or verify U.S. passports. For travel overseas and to facilitate reentry into the U.S., a valid U.S. passport is the best documentation available.
Before you leave, make sure you have all your important documents – including passport and visa! This is your most important form of identification while you’re abroad.The Country Specific Information will tell you whether or not you need a visa for the country you’ll be visiting on your trip. Be sure to plan in enough time before you leave to acquire it. Some countries require that a traveler’s U.S. passport be valid at least six months or longer beyond the dates of the trip.
United States citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit. In this situation, when planning travel abroad, learn about visa requirements by country, see Country Specific Travel Information in the International Travel section of this website.
A valid passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Some countries may allow you to enter with only a birth certificate, or with a birth certificate and a driver’s license. Note, however, that rules established under the U.S. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, require that all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must present a valid passport to reenter the United States. (Until September 30, 2007, U.S. citizens who have applied for but not yet received passports can enter and depart the United States by air to Western Hemisphere countries with a government-issued photo identification and official proof of application for a passport.
The proof may be obtained at the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This accommodation does not affect entry requirements of other countries, and U.S. citizens who are traveling to a country that requires a visitor to have a passport must still obtain one.)
If you are traveling by land or sea, make certain that you can return to the United States with the proof of citizenship that you take with you. U.S. regulations require that you document both your U.S. citizenship and your identity when you reenter the United States. For more for more information about U.S. passport requirements, see the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Passport Requirements web page.