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Passport to Careers Guide: About Passport to Careers

What is the Passport to Careers program?

The Passport to Careers program helps Washington students—specifically those who have been in various types of foster care or who have experienced unaccompanied homelessness—to prepare for careers. Help includes money to put toward the costs of earning a college certificate or degree or job training through a pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program. Help also includes experts to help answer your questions and navigate your pathway.

If you are eligible, you have the choice of two education pathways: one leads to a college degree or certificate, and one leads to an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship program.

Click on the tabs below for more information about the Passport pathways.

Passport to College

Passport to College

The Passport to College Promise Scholarship pathway will give you a scholarship that helps with the cost of earning a college certificate or degree (tuition, fees, books, housing, transportation, and some personal expenses), support services from college staff, and priority consideration for the Washington College Grant and Washington State Work Study programs.

In the 2020-21 academic year, the maximum Passport to College award was $2,000. With additional money awarded from other financial aid programs, your costs will likely be paid for at most Washington State colleges. The college’s financial aid office will administer your funding.

Part of your financial aid may be work study. College faculty and administrators who are asked how much students should work typically say ten to fifteen hours per week. The Washington State Work Study program will give priority to eligible students in the Passport to Careers program, which means you will be considered first for available jobs. The Federal Work Study program may also be offered, but with no priority feature.

How long it takes to finish your Passport to College pathway depends on the certificate or degree you choose and whether you attend part-time or full-time. Some programs are as short as one year, while others may take several years to complete.

Passport to Apprenticeship

Passport to Apprenticeship Opportunities

The Passport to Apprenticeship Opportunities pathway will help with costs if you are in an eligible apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship program, including tuition for classes, fees, work clothes, rain gear, boots, and occupation-related tools. If your program is not at a college, a WSAC-appointed organization experienced with apprenticeships will administer your funding and provide staff to support you. If you are enrolled in an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship program at a community or technical college, you might receive your Passport to Careers funds from either the campus financial aid office or the appointed organization, depending on your specific program.

Apprenticeships are both a job and an education. You will be trained by master craftspeople in your chosen trade and will typically begin by earning about half the wage-level for your occupation, with regular raises. Once you complete the program, you are certified at a journeyman level and are paid at that level. Each apprenticeship has a defined program length, usually measured in hours. The length of time spent in an apprenticeship depends on the trade being learned.


You are eligible for Passport to Careers financial aid and support services if you:

1. Meet the criteria for former foster youth or unaccompanied homeless youth outlined in the tabs below.

2. Are enrolled (or will enroll) at least half-time in an eligible college or registered pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program by your 21st birthday.

3. Maintain Washington residency as outlined in the tab below.

4. Meet the following additional criteria if in the Passport to College track:

a. Are working toward a certificate, associate degree, or first bachelor’s degree. You may not receive the scholarship if you are pursuing a degree in theology.

b. Continue to make satisfactory academic progress as defined by the college you attend.

Click on the tabs below for more information about eligibility.

Former Foster Youth

Additional criteria for Passport eligibility as a former foster youth

1. If you apply before July 2020, you must have been in care after age 14. As of July 1, 2020, you must have been in care after age 13.

2. You must have been placed in one of these three types of qualifying foster care:

a. State foster care system that is out-of-home care. Includes dependents from other states who are placed in Washington, and dependents from Washington placed in other states under the interstate compact program (see RCW 26.34). View the ICPC caseworker contact list.

b. Federal foster care program under the federal unaccompanied refugee minors program (see Title 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1522 of the immigration and nationality act).

c. Tribal foster care system that is an out-of-home placement under a dependency order from a tribal court. This must be a federally recognized tribe. If you don’t know your tribal contact, use the Washington State Tribal Directory.

Find out more about your legal foster care status by contacting your Regional Education Liaison. They can provide you with a letter documenting your foster care status.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Additional criteria for Passport eligibility as an unaccompanied homeless youth

1. You must apply for Passport after July 1, 2019.

2. You must have been an unaccompanied homeless youth during the prior academic year.

3. You will be asked to provide your college financial aid office with verification from your high school or school district McKinney-Vento liaison; the director or designated staff member of an emergency shelter, transitional housing program, or homeless youth drop-in center; or other similar professional case manager or school employee.

4. If you have no formal connection with such a professional, you may contact the Passport to Careers program at or 1-888-535-0747, option 3.

What qualifies as “unaccompanied homeless”?

You must have been a youth or young adult experiencing homelessness while not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) uses the housing questionnaire (scroll to the sample forms section) to help determine the services a student may be eligible to receive under the McKinney-Vento Act.

Homeless or homelessness means without a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence as set forth in the federal McKinney-Vento homeless assistance act. This includes children and youth who meet any of the following criteria:

  • Are sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals.
  • Have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
  • Are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
  • Are a migratory child living in one of the above circumstances.

If you need help or have questions, contact the Office of Homeless Youth to find a list of providers in your area. There are also McKinney-Vento Liaisons in school districts statewide who can help.


Washington state resident and citizenship requirements

Generally, you are required to meet state residency requirements to receive financial aid from the state of Washington; however, if you are unable to establish state residency because you were an unaccompanied homeless youth in another state, or were placed in state foster care under the interstate compact, your residency may be determined by the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC).

If you are not a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, or do not have DACA status, you may be eligible if you meet the following three criteria:

  • Earned a diploma from a Washington State high school or obtained a GED or equivalent.
  • Lived in Washington for at least three calendar years before earning the high school diploma or equivalent, and continuously since.
  • Sign an affidavit (written promise) affirming eligibility and promising to become a permanent resident/citizen of the United States when eligible to apply.