Going on a mission trip is incredible, eye-opening, life-changing, and so much more. However, some not-so-fun things need to be taken care of before you go on one. In this article, we will discuss how to get your passport, when you should get it, and the easiest tips and tricks for how to do so. 


How to Apply

First, you must decide whether you want a passport book or a passport card. If you plan on only traveling by land to the United States, Canada, or Mexico, a cheaper option would be a passport card. However, you will likely want a passport book because it is necessary for all international air travel. The best and quickest way to apply for either is to go to usa.gov/passport.

This website also lists the processing time for your passport, which is currently as follows:

– Routine: 7-10 weeks 

– Expedited: 4-6 weeks 


What you need to apply according to usa.gov:

– Application form. Whether you fill it out online or fill it out by hand, the form will need to be hand delivered or mailed to a passport acceptance facility near you. Unfortunately, it cannot be submitted through the website. 

Photo ID. It must be government issued. 

Proof of citizenship document. It must be the original. 

Photocopy of the above documents. You will need a separate photocopy of the front and back of your photo ID and proof of citizenship documents. 

Passport photo. This needs to be taken ahead of time and brought with you or uploaded online. These photos are very specific, so make sure you read the guidelines ahead of time. A great place to get this done is at Walgreens Photo Counter. 

Proof of name change. If you have changed your name or got married, you will need either the marriage certificate or documentation from the court of your name change. 

A form of payment. You can calculate your total fees online.


How to Renew

If you are renewing your expired passport, then you need to meet certain requirements. You cannot renew it if it was issued 15 or more years ago, was issued before your sixteenth birthday, is damaged/lost/stolen, or if it was issued with a previous name, but you do not have a legal document to prove the name change. If none of these apply to you, then you can renew your passport by scheduling an appointment with the facility closest to you. 


Tips and Tricks  

There are always tips and tricks that will help the passport application or renewal process run more smoothly. Here are just a few of them:

 – Prepare ahead of time. When renewing your passport, it is best to keep track of when it expires and start the renewal process well in advance (at least 6 months). Depending on where you are traveling, it may be required that your passport be valid at least 6 months prior to or after travel. 

Make a checklist. Go over your checklist multiple times to make sure you have all your documents prior to your scheduled appointment. Some places are booked out for appointments, and you may have to drive to a further location, so it is important to have everything you need – especially since the fees are non-refundable. 

Get your passport photo taken. There are plenty of pharmacies (Walgreens, CVS, etc.) that regularly take passport photos and know the guidelines for what is accepted. You can always upload a photo online, but you must meet the following requirements: 

  • Unfiltered color photo 
  • Plain, white background
  • Full-frame photo of yourself, cannot be a selfie
  • Must have been taken within the last 6 months
  • Remove glasses, hats, etc.
  • Neutral expression, no smiling
  • A 2×2 photo with your head centered

Have a designated safe place for your passport when traveling. After going through all the steps to get your passport, you do not want to lose it on the plane, in a taxi, or accidentally put it through the washing machine. It would be wise to invest in a travel wallet or passport holder (there are plenty of affordable ones online) that you can wear around your neck, under your clothes, or around your waist. This is an easy way to keep all your money, credit cards, and any other valuables on your person at all times when traveling. 

Thoroughly review usa.gov/passport for extenuating circumstances. If you need a passport right away, there are steps you can take to expedite the process. Some situations are as quick as 3 days – in the case of life or death emergencies – while some are within 14 days of international travel.