One of the first things the Peace Corps encourages you to do after accepting an invitation to serve is to apply for your no-fee passport and your visa (if your country of service requires one).
Even if you already have a passport, you still need to apply for a special no-fee passport, which indicates that you are traveling abroad for official (not leisure) travel. These passports are also maroon instead of blue like the regular passports!
Now, depending on whether you already have a regular passport, you will have to complete one of two different passport applications, the Form DS-82 (if you already have a passport) or the Form DS-11 (if you don’t already have a passport OR if you will need your current passport before your Peace Corps staging*).
*When you apply for your no-fee passport using the Form DS-82, you must submit your current passport with the application. The Peace Corps holds both your new no-fee passport AND your current, regular passport until your staging event right before you leave for your country of service. Which is why if you will need to use your current passport for anything between the time when you apply for the no-fee passport and before you leave for staging, you need to use the Form DS-11 (and just submit a photocopy of the information page of your current passport with the application).
It can seem pretty overwhelming and confusing, but the Peace Corps does send you very specific instructions for applying for the no-fee passport through either of the two forms. It is important, though, to read and follow those instructions carefully!
Regardless of which application form you use, you will need to submit passport photos with the application. If you’re cheap like me and don’t want to pay to get those professionally done at Walmart or a drug store, a fellow MI student at Tulane had these tips to make your own!
- Have someone take a photograph of you, being sure to follow all the guidelines here and here.
- Upload the photo to your computer and use this online tool to format the photo correctly.
- Save the formatted photo to your computer, then follow the instructions on this site to get four 2×2 photos on a single 4×6 photo.
- If you have photo paper and a high-quality printer, you can print this photo at home. Otherwise, just print the single photo at Walgreens or any other place where you can print photos.
- Cut the 4 individual photos out of the single photo (preferably using a paper trimmer if you’re not too good with scissors), and voilà! Low-cost passport photos!
Most countries will also require you to apply for a visa. If your country of service has this requirement, the Peace Corps will send you specific instructions on how to go about this process. You will probably also need to send in 1 or 2 photos (in addition to the ones you submitted with your passport application) with your visa application (good thing you already have 4 photos from the steps above!). Like with the no-fee passport, be sure to read and follow all the instructions carefully in order to avoid any delays!