This might be semi-controversial post, but hear me out.
It is my opinion that, if economically feasible, you should get a passport for your prospective missionary before they submit their papers to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Here are four good reasons why you should get that passport early even if your so or daughter doesn’t end up serving a mission out of the country.
Do I need a passport before I submit my mission papers?
The official answer is no. There is a spot in filling out your mission papers that asks for passport information if you have it. However, you DO NOT have to have a passport prior to submitting your papers.
Will having a passport increase my chances of serving a foreign mission?
No. Many missionaries called to “foreign missions” don’t have a passport before submitting their papers. Having a passport (or not having a passport) will not influence your call in any way, but having a passport will make it easier on you!
Four Reasons why you should have your passport before submitting mission papers
1) Foreign MTCs: Did you know that there are many stateside missionaries that are assigned to Missionary Training Centers out of the United States? They get to learn the language and experience the culture outside of the US and then come back in the states to serve. Isn’t that the coolest? So even if your missionary is called stateside, if they are learning Spanish, there is a good chance that they might go to the Mexico MTC to learn (and will need a passport to get there!).
2) Faster Visa Application: Many countries require you to submit a VISA application to stay in their country. You usually need to submit your passport with your Visa application. If you already have a passport, you can begin applying for the Visa immediately (if you are supposed to…some countries have you wait). Having a passport when you get a mission call speeds up any Visa application by leaps and bounds.
3) Long Expiration Date: Passports are valid for 10 years for anyone over the age of 16, so even if your son or daughter doesn’t serve a foreign mission or go to an MTC outside of the U.S., there is a chance they will use their passport for an amazing vacation sometime before they turn 28-29 years old.
4) Something off your plate: Trust me, there are a LOT of balls to juggle when you’re helping your missionary get ready for their mission. Having a valid passport BEFORE or VERY CLOSE TO the time your missionary gets their call means you have one less thing to worry about when you are prepping to send your child off!
How much do passports cost?
For anyone over the age of 16 applying for a passport book (this is the one you need!) for the first time, you will pay two fees, $130 Application Fee and a $35 execution/acceptance fee.
You will also need to purchase or provide passport photos. You can find out all of the details of what is needed on this website about passport photos, but I recommend using a professional service (because they know all the ins and outs and you won’t have to resubmit pictures that don’t meet their qualifications!). Two passport photos cost $16.99 at Walgreens. Some passport acceptance locations also have the option to have a photo taken there (ask when you call to schedule an appointment).
If you have to expedite the passport (which might be necessity if you are applying for a VISA and don’t have the passport already, you will pay an additional $60 Expedited Service fee and possibly an additional $19.53 for 1-2 day delivery.
So a passport purchased ahead of time will run you about $182 (including Walgreens passport photos).
A rushed passport will cost you approximately $262.
Related Content: How to submit Mission Papers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
How do I get a passport for my mission?
Now let’s talk about logistics. Everything you need to know about getting a passport is on this government passport website. But basically you will follow these steps:
- Make an appointment at your closest Passport Acceptance Office.
- Print and fill out form DS-11
- Provide Proof of US Citizenship and make a photocopy to turn in with passport. (Check website for specific proof needed!).
- Provide Identification and make a photocopy to turn in with passport. (Check website for specific ID needed!).
- Show parental approval (I didn’t know this, and went to the appointment without my husband and had to come back another day. Check for specifics at the office you’re going to, but mine required my husband’s presence and signature at our passport appointment. This is to prevent one parent from leaving the country with children without the other parent’s knowledge). Check website for more info!).
- Get a Passport photo (or go to a location that does the photos).
- Take all of the documents and form to your appointment, along with a check to pay the necessary fees.
How long does it take to get a passport?
Currently, they say it takes about 10-13 weeks from application to receiving the passport in the mail. This can vary based on when you apply, and how many other applications are pending. This is the NON-EXPEDITED timeline.
If you pay to have the passport expedited, expect to wait approximately 7-9 weeks.
Now, you will hear from all sorts of people that it ONLY took them 3 weeks or took them months etc etc. The truth is, your passport arrival time will be influenced by many variables. That’s why I say, do it a few months before they turn in their papers, then you don’t even have to worry about it! And if you can, take a fun out-of-the-country trip with your missionary before they turn in their papers! 😉
Is there any way to get a passport for a missionary faster?
There are some special agencies where you can get an extra speedy passport “only for customers who have urgent international travel within 14 calendar days or need a foreign visa within 28 calendar days.”
There are only 24 locations in the USA that offer this special fast service…so you would need to travel to the one closest to you, unless you are lucky enough to live by one!
You can read about this Urgent Travel Service passport option by clicking here.
Related Content: 100 of the Best Extras for Missionaries
Passport for Missionaries Takeaways
I know that it isn’t economically feasible for everyone to spend $182 on a passport your missionary may or may not need…but if you are ABLE, I highly recommend starting or even completing the passport application for your prospective missionary prior to them submitting their papers. I even more highly recommend taking that amazing international trip with them before they submit! 😉
As in all things, things will work out the way Heavenly Father wants them to.
That being said, you can save a lot of stress and take one less thing off your missionary prep plate by applying for a passport early!