It has nothing to do with getting on a plane.
I saw a meme recently basically telling people to give up XYZ to get a passport and see the world. Some comments were like ‘you still have to pay for the trip‘; ‘people are trying to get basic necessities, they don’t have a budget for passports‘; and ‘they don’t even cost that much‘. That put me in my feels because I know both the benefits and the struggle.
I’ve had a passport as long as I can remember, maybe 40 years or so. I also remember my dad going on every now and then how he couldn’t understand why people didn’t get one. He was also the Assistant Chief Immigration Officer in Bermuda for a while and had also lived in Barbados and the UK, so I understand his point of view. When I moved back to the States as an adult, I was honestly taken aback at just how many people I know not only didn’t have a passport, but didn’t see the value in getting one.
Now, I have to say that over the years I’ve watched the cost rise… a lot. I’m pretty sure that the cost of renewing my US passport was double that of when I first paid for mine and my daughter’s. One thing I’ve observed is that when a certain group wants to exclude another group (or groups) from participating in something, the cost rises. Something else I observed? When I renewed my driver’s license in 2015, I had to provide a little more personally identifying information than usual… [hold on to this thought, I’m coming back to it]. While waiting for my turn, I witnessed more than a few people leave the DDS line because they didn’t have one of the requested items and wouldn’t be able to obtain or renew their licenses without them.
Outside of the expense, a lot of people’s reasoning for not having a passport was that they didn’t see themselves traveling out of the country. Okay. I get that. But what happens if – as I’ve seen happen on a few occasions – a very good, very lucrative opportunity falls in your lap, but in order to take part in it, you need a passport? The cost for speeding up the passport process is way higher than regular processing times, but even if you had the money, to get a brand new passport issued, you’ll need more than 48 hours and will probably need a note from a very high up official to help move you through the line. I’m pretty sure that the note wouldn’t make a difference, though.
But let’s say that you don’t have the funds for whatever reason, you really don’t see yourself going out of the country, and you’re completely okay with passing on international opportunities. Do you drive? Would not being able to renew your driver’s license be an issue for you if you can’t find or don’t have access to your birth certificate or another piece of ID? What about if you live in a state that hasn’t or will not have switched to the new ‘Secure ID Driver’s Licenses and ID Cards‘ before the deadline? Did you know that if you live in one of these states that you probably won’t be able to use your license as ID for a flight?
Okay… so let’s then say that you aren’t ever worrying about TSA because you feel like you’ll probably never get on a plane. Cool. I can respect that. What if I told you that the best reason for having a passport has nothing to do with getting on a plane or crossing borders, per se?
See… your passport is pretty much the firmest form of proof of citizenship a civilian can carry. It’s less ‘dangerous’ than carrying your Social Security card and/or birth certificate everywhere. Since you have to provide those two pieces of info to get a passport anyway, you just need the one booklet (or passport card in some cases).
And look, if you need a weird reason to get a passport, peep this. You ever watch those movies set in 2020-something? And how some people are made to stay behind a fence and others are allowed to roam freely in the cleaner parts of town? The parts of town with electricity and running water… and food? Those people had to prove their citizenship and it’s basically, you guessed it, their passport. We’re not too far off from 2020-something (I picked that decade because the movie Children of Men is set in that era and they show precisely this). To me, that seems good enough reason to get one.
Here’s the thing. I am NOT here for shaming anyone that doesn’t have a passport. My goal is to encourage you to get one. The US rate as of September 28, 2016 for someone 16 or older is $110. You will need pictures as well, so let’s add $20 to that. I get that for some it may be hard to fathom parting with that much money… for others, it’s no thing. If your finances are challenged, stashing away $3 a week (per person) for 52 weeks will get your passport and your pictures. That may be a little easier to picture for some of you, just break it down.
Actually, saving up and paying for your application is the ‘easy’ part. Knowing, obtaining and sorting out the documents you need can be some work, and intimidating; especially if you have complicated circumstances such as change of name not due to marriage, adoption, being born outside of the US but having citizenship, etc.* You will need your birth certificate and social security number at the very least.
So where do you go to get one?
You can download your application from here https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/forms.html
You can find authorized locations here https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/ and also post office locations that have passport services https://www.usps.com/international/passports.htm scroll down to the Tips section. The tips are pretty good.
Although some chain drugstore photo departments say that they do passport photos, 3 times out of 3 I’ve had to have my pictures re-done when I used them. Choose a location that has Photo On Site and save yourself the expense and aggravation.
If you’ve been on the fence about getting a passport, I say it’s better to get one before you need one. As mentioned before, expedited service costs more and it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll get it in time. Give yourself at least 2 months’ time to get it done if you know you’re going to need it. From my experience, May through the beginning of September and November through January are slower turnaround times due to more people going on vacation/holidays.
If you still don’t think it’s for you, that’s totally your decision. We’re still cool, right?
Either way, tweet me and let me know if this helped you make up your mind.
Until next time,
*This is by no means – in whole or in part – advice relating to legal, custody and/or immigration matters. This just happens to be issues I dealt with, so I know it takes a little more work.