Short Term Mission Tips

You have an eager group of qualified volunteers ready to accomplish their one-week, two-week, or one-month mission assignment. What steps are necessary to book travel, get passports and visas, and make sure everyone takes the proper health precautions? Here are some practical "How to's"

Find Low Airfares:
You may receive a reduced price per traveler if you book 10 or more on identical flights. Sometimes you'll get one free ticket for every 15 or 30 purchased.

It's best to have a reputable travel agency negotiate with the airline for you - preferably an agency that specializes in missionary travel. They possess valuable experience in booking travel to developing countries. Advance attention to travel details will let you concentrate on what's really important -- your ministry.

Be Prepared to Adjust to Foreign Air Carrier Schedules (or Non-Schedules!)

Commercial air travel in developing countries can be quite different from US domestic flights. Just because your seats are booked and the flight is scheduled to leave at a certain time doesn't mean everything will run smoothly and punctually!

Be patient and courteous with airline workers. Remember that you are not dealing with the American "instant" culture. Your strident complaining will accomplish little -- except to call attention to traveling Americans.

Allow Ample Time for Passport and Visa Issuance

For a first-time passport application, a US citizen must appear at the nearest passport agency, county court or post office which accepts passport applications. Take with you:
· Birth Certificate - An original with a raised seal.
· Driver's license - Or positive ID containing a photo, signature and physical description. Without a positive ID, you must appear with a witness who is a US citizen or a permanent resident alien, and has known you at least two years. Your witness must prove his or her identity and complete an Affidavit of identifying Witness.
· Photos -- Two identical passport-size photos. Don't submit your own snapshots or use vending machine photos -- they will be rejected.
· Money -- $130 (for passport book) and $30 (for passport card) for those 16 years of age or over (Their passports will be valid for 10 years.) $100 (for passport book) and $15 (for passport card) for those under 16 (Their passports will be valid for 5 years, and non-renewable.). Your local passport agency, county courthouse or post office will also charge a first-time processing fee of $35.

Once these are all submitted, passport issuance usually takes four to six weeks. Be sure each person in your group signs his or her passport upon receipt.

Before departure, advise each worker on your short-term team to keep two photos and a photocopy of his or her passport vital information page. They should carry these with them, separate from the passport. If the passport is lost or stolen overseas, the spare documents speed up issuance of a new one at the American embassy.

If a short-term worker plans to spend three months or less in a country that requires visas, a tourist visa is usually sufficient. Once the proper documents -- passport, visa forms, photos, and sometimes a World Health Organization booklet with proof of necessary vaccinations -- are submitted to the country's consulate or embassy, visa issuance for a US citizen takes three to ten days.

Many countries require that a passport be valid six months from date of entry into the country. A visa almost always must be stamped into passport pages, so travelers must apply for passports in plenty of time.