Whether your family is about to take an international trip or you’re wanting an official form of photo identification for your baby, the process of getting a passport can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be! As long as you’re organized, plan ahead, and leave plenty of wiggle room, the process of getting a passport for your child is really quite simple. Read on to find out the steps, some tips and tricks, and a free checklist!
Passports for Children Under 16
Obtaining a passport for a child under the age of 16 is a little different than the normal process. For starters, they must apply in person. Furthermore, a child’s passport is only valid for 5 years, whereas an adult’s passport is valid for 10 years. This makes sense as children grow up quickly and their looks can change. After 5 years, you will have to complete a brand new application each time until your child is 16 years old. Fortunately, a child’s passport is also cheaper!
What you need to bring
There are many forms and paperwork that you will need to bring for an in-person passport application for your child:
- Evidence of U.S. Citizenship – this can include a fully valid, undamaged U.S. passport (it may be expired), a U.S. birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship, or a consular report of birth abroad or certification of birth. The evidence of U.S. citizenship must be an original or certified copy.
- Photocopy of U.S. Citizenship Evidence – Make a photocopy of the evidence of U.S. Citizenship that you chose from above to submit. The photocopy must be legible, on white 8.5”x11” standard paper, black and white, and single-sided. This means that if there is printed information on the back, you must photocopy that on a separate piece of paper.
- Proof of Parental Relationship – this can include a U.S. birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, foreign birth certificate, adoption decree, or divorce/custody decree. You’ll notice that the U.S. birth certificate and the consular report of birth abroad can serve as both the evidence of U.S. citizenship as well as parental relationship.
- Present Parent’s ID – this can include a valid driver’s license, U.S. passport (valid or expired), certificate of naturalization or citizenship, etc. (please see full list at https://travel.state.gov/)
- Photocopy of Parent’s ID – Again, this photocopy must be on white 8.5”x11” standard paper, black and white, and single-sided
- Child’s Passport Photo – this must be a color photo taken within the last 6 months with a clear image of the face and a white background. See more detail in the next section.
- Form of payment – bring your checkbook or a cashier’s check for the passport fees. See the chart below for the fees for a child applicant (as of April 2019):
Steps to complete
- Gather all of your documents listed above. Download the free checklist, attach it to a folder, and tick each thing off as you add it to the folder.
- Get children’s passport photo. There are many ways to get this done. You can go to a photo center, such as CVS or Walgreens, and pay a small fee. Most post offices also do the photos when you apply for the passport in person. Or you can do the photos yourself with a white sheet, but please check the (site) for the entire list of requirements. It may be worth to pay the small fee to have a professional do the photo to avoid the potential of a rejected application due to the photo if the requirements are not met.
- Fill out Form DS-11. This can be printed online or picked up in person at the application office. See my tips and tricks below regarding this form. Do not sign this form until instructed to do so by the acceptance agent when you apply in person!
- Find your acceptance facility. You can easily find an application office near you by searching (link). The site will show the hours that they accept passport applications as well as if they take appointments. Most of the places are post offices or libraries. Read my tips and tricks below to (hopefully) reduce your waiting time!
- Apply in person. The child and both parents listed on the birth certificate need to be present to apply for the child’s passport. There are some exceptions if one parent is unable to appear or if there are custody issues. Check (link) to see what to do for these exceptions. At the office, the acceptance agent will review your application, making sure that everything is filled out correctly and checks that the photo meets requirements. The agent will also check your required identification and have you verbally swear that the application and documents presented are correct. You will then sign the application when instructed by the agent and it’s time for the waiting game.
- After submitting the application. Once you submit your child’s passport application, you’ll wait for about 4-6 weeks to receive the passport through the mail. If you paid the expedited fee, you can expect to wait for 2-3 weeks.
Please note that the passport office will keep your child’s evidence of U.S. citizenship with your application and will mail it back separately from the passport.
Tips and Tricks When Applying for A Child’s Passport
- Get a passport early. When your child is first born, there are so many things that have to be done, from birth certificates, adding them to insurance policies, staying alive, etc. Getting a passport may not even be on your list, but consider applying for a passport for your child after the “newness” settles down. Since it can take a while to get the passport, get it sooner rather than later. This way, you won’t have to worry about it if you get offered to go on an international trip last minute or you won’t be scrambling when you book a vacation only to find out you have to get a passport too!
- Fill out Form DS-11 in advance. On the (Travel link) website, you can print out a PDF of the form and fill it out with black ink or you can use their form filler to fill in the sections for you. This is great for people with not-so-pretty handwriting (ahem, my husband). Filling out the form before you go ensures you have all the information needed on the form rather than finding out after waiting hours in line. When you go to print out the blank or filled out copy, DO NOT print form on both sides. You must print the form single-sided or you’ll have to fill it out again at the acceptance facility. As mentioned above, do not sign the form until instructed by an acceptance agent. Also, do not attach the passport photos to the form either. The agent will do that once he/she ensures that everything is correct.
- Make an appointment, if you can. There are some passport acceptance facilities that will allow you to make appointments. Do that! It will save you lots of waiting time, which is even better with a small child.
- If no appointments, get there even before the facility opens. This way, you can be there as soon as they start accepting applications and you can minimize your waiting time.
Our personal experience with applying for Remy’s passport was such a positive one! We booked our first international trip as a family that was 6 weeks out before realizing that Remy didn’t have a passport! Don’t be like us and follow Tip #1. Luckily, the weekend after we booked our trip, we went to the local library as soon as they opened to apply for his passport. We were first in line and the entire process took 20 minutes. This library was nice because they had a pager system for the people after us so they were free to roam the library and the pager would buzz when it was their turn. It is very convenient and great for families with kids as they could play in the children’s section until it was time.
The acceptance facility was also able to take Remy’s photo for a small fee. It was definitely worth the fee as we didn’t have to deal with a squirmy toddler while trying to measure the face length in the frame at home.
Since our trip was in 6 weeks, we paid the expedited fee and got his passport exactly two weeks after turning in the application! Whew!
How was your passport experience? Any tips or tricks you can share?