Getting your child their first passport is a detailed task. At one time, traveling to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean required nothing more than a birth certificate and a photo ID. Today, all children need passports. Not sure where to start or what to expect? Here, we answer the most common questions about passports for kids and babies.
1. Do babies need passports?
Yes, all U.S. citizens need a passport to travel internationally.
2. What are the baby passport photo requirements?
A baby’s passport photo must be taken when the child is awake with his or her eyes open. The background of the photo must also be white. The baby can be laying on a flat white sheet for the photo; placing the baby in a car seat (unstrapped) with a white sheet placed behind the baby is also a good idea. Make sure neither the sheet nor car seat covers your baby’s ears or face in any way, and make sure no shadows are being cast on the baby’s face. When in doubt, go to your local AAA or passport agency. They’ll ensure sure you get a photo that will be accepted.
3. How much are passports for kids?
As of 2019, the application fee for children under the age of 16 is $80; for children over 16, it’s $110. Other processing fees may apply.
4. How do I get a passport for my kids?
To apply for a passport for the first time, children (including babies) must appear in person with both parents or guardians. You may visit a local passport agency, your local post office municipal/town/county government offices and possibly your local library. While government agencies may accept walk-in applicants, some require appointments and do not handle passports at all times or even all days. Your best bet is to make an appointment in advance. If you require a passport quickly, you may schedule an appointment at a passport agency. These are only available if you need a passport in less than two weeks or within four weeks to obtain a foreign visa.
And yes, you read correctly above: BOTH parents must accompany the child. If it’s too difficult for both parents to attend, particularly if they are divorced and one has sole legal custody, you will need to bring a notarized DS-3053 form, which states that the parent not present consents to the child receiving a passport. This form is only valid for three months. If you are divorced, you will also need to bring in the court order that grants you the legal guardian. If your spouse is deceased, you can bring a copy of the death certificate verifying why you are applying alone. If, for any reason, you cannot bring in any or all of the documentation mentioned, you will need to complete and bring in the DS-3053 form stating why you cannot get consent. Sometimes, a court order may grant travel with the child, in which case the order will need to be brought in as well.
You will also need to bring in a copy of the child’s birth certificate or adoption decree (if applicable). If your child was born in another country, you will need to bring in the consular report of birth abroad (Form FS-240) or certificate of birth abroad (Form DS-1350). The birth certificate has to be an official birth certificate, not a copy, or it will not be accepted. Both parents also need to provide a copy of both sides of their driver’s licenses. If one parent isn’t present, a copy needs to be brought in with the accompanying parent.
Now that you’ve gathered all the documents illustrating who your child is and that you are the parent/guardian, you can complete form DS-11, which provides all the information that will be used on your child’s passport.
5. What happens at a passport appointment?
At your appointment, the clerk will double-check that you have all the forms and identification required. They will then take a passport photo of your child, which will likely cost an extra fee. You can also obtain a passport photo ahead of time from a number of authorized locations, such as Walmart, CVS and UPS, and bring them in with you. They must be in color, 2×2 inches in size, with the head between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head, taken in front of a white or off-white background, without hats, without smiles (bummer), and taken within the last six months.
Once all forms have been submitted and signed, you will have a number of fees to submit. If you are obtaining a passport for more than one child, you will need to submit one payment per child. You should be applying for a passport within at least six weeks of your scheduled trip. It typically takes two to three weeks to receive a passport, but it is not guaranteed. Should you have less than six weeks, it is recommended you select Expedited Service, which is an additional $60 per child. The federal government also suggests you select overnight delivery for your passport to be sent, which costs an additional fee.
If a passport is received with incorrect information, the government will not charge a fee for correcting it. You will need to submit Form DS-5504 via mail.
6. How long are kids passports good for?
Passports for kids are valid for five years, until the age of 16, after which they are valid for the standard 10 years. When renewing a passport for a child, you will have to again appear in person, following the original procedures. Only when a child is 16 and older will they be able to renew a passport via mail. Children will not need new passports due to aging and growing in size. The government expects this, and it is the reason children’s passports must be renewed every five years instead of 10.
7. Do kids need passports for cruises?
This varies by cruise line. For example, Royal Caribbean International requires that minors have a certified or notarized copy of their birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issues by DOS, or Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Disney, on the other hand, requires that all guests (including kids) travel with a valid passport. Be sure to check your cruise line’s policy before your trip.
8. Do babies and kids need passports for Canada?
No, but you’ll need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship for your child, such as a copy of their birth certificate.
9. Do my kids need passports for travel within the U.S.?
Minors under the age of 18 do not need to provide identification at the airport.
10. What if my child’s legal name changes?
If your child undergoes a name change and requires a new passport, you will have two options. If it’s due to a parent’s or guardian’s marriage and the original passport is less than one year old, you can mail in the former passport with a DS-5504 name change form, an original copy of the government document stating the name change, and a new passport photo. There will not be a fee, unless requesting expedited service. If the passport is more than a year old, however, you will have to appear in person again and begin the process anew, including all forms and fees, as well as bringing three public records showing the child’s assumed name.
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