Since there may be international travel in the future for St. Louis roller derby, and various people have asked me, I have written a guide to getting or renewing a passport. This guide is intended for United States citizens and permanent residents who wish to obtain or renew a United States passport. IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF ANOTHER COUNTRY, please contact your home country’s embassy in the country you wish to visit for instructions on how to get there legally.
First, a few notes from experience.
- Passports are not something that you can wait around and do at the last minute (good grief this should be flashing and 9000 point type.)
- At best, if you are a week away from a trip you would have to appear in person at the passport agency in Chicago and wait in lines until they have time to process you. At worst, they just won’t have time.
- The State Department will process things rapidly for life or death emergencies but I can guarantee that “I want to play roller derby” will not be considered a life or death emergency.
- BOTTOM LINE: GET YOUR PASSPORT RIGHT MEOW and avoid the stress.
- If you do not have a valid passport that expires at least six months AFTER the trip, you will not even be allowed to get on the plane overseas. This means that even if your passport is valid but expires at, say, the end of 2017, it will not be enough. You need to renew it unless it expires in, say, mid 2018.
- Do you need a visa? Probably not. If you are the average US citizen, the UK and Sweden both have visa waivers that allow US citizens to basically show up at the border and come in for a maximum of 90 days as a tourist.
- You will need to show your return ticket or other proof that you are going back home (such as a travel itinerary).
- You may also be asked questions about what you do, why you are there, etc. Everyone gets asked those, don’t worry about it.
- If you are flying into Denmark (Malmo is very close to Copenhagen), your passport will be stamped there but then you can cross into Sweden without problems as both are in the Schengen Area.
- I recommend spending the extra money for expedited service. If the passport agency gets bogged down for whatever reason, it can delay things horribly but the expedited requests still go first.
- I recommend getting both the passport book and the passport card. It costs a little extra but then you have two forms of passport ID which can help if you lose one. You cannot use the card for flying overseas, but you can use it at land border crossings and as a government ID to get onto a domestic flight.
- This is accurate as of February 2, 2017. Things can change rapidly so be sure to stay on top of it.
NOW, HOW DO I GET A PASSPORT?
- Go here: US State Department Passport Page
- Click the “Get Started” button and click past the notice.
- Go to “Complete Form Online” at the lower left of the screen.
- Fill out the online forms. At the end, it will have a PDF for you to print out.
- Once you print the PDF, you will need a photo to staple to it in the indicated area. Walgreens can do the photo for $10 or so. Also, if you have an office that has photo ID badges, maybe the security department can print a passport for you.
- If you are renewing a passport, you can send the application form, a check for the proper funds, your old passport, and the photo via mail (I recommend Priority Mail) and you don’t have to go to an Acceptance Facility.
- If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you need to go to an Acceptance Facility to formally apply. These are usually post offices. Note that some of them have photos onsite as well. Note that most of them do not accept credit or debit cards for passports, you will need a check or possibly a money order (neat loophole, post offices sell postal money orders so there you go).
You will need proof of identity (for example a drivers license) and proof of US citizenship or residency. For people born in the US, this is a birth certificate. For others, your mileage may vary. The US Passport application form lists various valid forms of ID and proof of citizenship.