Planning an international trip with your family is a great way to make memories. There’s so much to see in the world, but before you take your family out of the country, your child needs a passport.
Getting a passport for your child starts with filling out an application. It’s important to remember that a passport can take six to eight weeks to process once you’ve filled out the proper paperwork and provided the necessary documentation. If you’re planning an international trip, apply for your child’s passport as soon as possible.
Once you receive your child’s passport, you won’t have to renew it for years and you’ll be ready to go on any adventure. Keep reading to find out how to get a passport for your child and when you will need one.
- Your child will need a passport regardless of their age, even if they're a newborn.
- The only exception to this is if you travel by land to Canada, or on a closed-loop cruise, and your child is still an infant.
- You can take your child's passport photo yourself, but it must meet the requirements. The only exception is for infants; they are not required to have completely open eyes.
What Age Will My Child Need a Passport?
Since a child under two years old can go to Disney World or ride on a plane without a ticket, you might wonder if young children are able to travel without a passport. When it comes to international travel by air, no matter how young your child is they need a passport before they can leave the country. The only exception to this is if you travel by land to Canada, or on a closed-loop cruise, and your child is still an infant.
Can a Child Travel Without a Passport?
There are some instances when your child can travel without a passport, such as any domestic travel across the U.S. U.S. citizens do not need a passport to travel to the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. citizens do need a passport to travel to American Samoa, Guam, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.
It’s also important to keep in mind- if you’re traveling without your child’s other parent, you may need a consent letter showing the other parent is aware of the trip. There is a specific form that you'll need to fill out for this situation. You can find it available for download on many websites, such as this one. Make sure you double-check that the form you download is the latest version and is the correct one. It's extremely important that you fill this form out before leaving without the child's other parent or guardian; if you fail to, you may be detained while authorities determine if you're attempting to kidnap the child or not.
What Documents Do I Need for a Child’s Passport?
The key to a smooth process when applying for your child’s passport is having all the proper documentation ready. Aside from the application form, you will need a photocopy of the following:
- Proof of citizenship, which could be a U.S. birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Proof of parental relationship, which could be a U.S. birth certificate, foreign birth certificate, adoption papers, divorce or custody papers, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Parent’s photo ID, which could be a passport, driver’s license, government employee ID, military ID, or any other certified form of identification
- Statement of consent form if one parent is unable to be there when you apply or proof, such as a court order, that you have sole custody
Additionally, you’ll want to be prepared with a copy of your child’s passport photo to ensure your application is complete.
How Do I Get a Passport Photo for my Child?
Although you may not get them to smile or look at the camera, even infants need a passport photo. When you apply for your child’s passport, have their passport photo ready. Most major pharmacies with photo centers offer passport photo services and provide a quick and easy way to have your child’s photo done. Some passport acceptance facilities do offer photo services as well, but be sure to check before you go to your appointment.
You can take the photo yourself if you choose, but it does need to meet the photo requirements for passports. Even though one of the requirements is the person in the photo must have their eyes completely open when you’re applying for an infant’s passport, there is an exception. If you have a newborn or infant, it’s okay if their eyes are closed or not entirely open.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Passport?
If you’re applying for your child’s passport for the first time before a trip, the trickiest part is waiting for the passport in the mail. It’s critical to complete the process as early as possible because it can take a while for everything to go through! On average, it may take between 6-8 weeks for you to receive your child’s passport.
Can I Expedite a Child's Passport?
When you have to travel out of the country unexpectedly for an emergency there are ways to expedite the process when you provide proof of the emergency. If you have an urgent need because your trip is coming up within a couple of weeks, you can make an appointment for an expedited passport if one is available, but this service isn’t guaranteed. The best way to ensure you’re prepared for your trip is to apply for your child’s passport at least two to three months before your trip.
How to Get a Passport for Your Child in 7 Steps
When you’re applying for a passport for a minor under the age of 16, you must apply for the passport in person. Here are the steps for getting a passport for your child:
- Fill out Form DS-11
The first step in getting your child’s passport is filling out the passport application, or Form DS-11. The form asks for information about your child and also gives directions on what you need to continue with the process. You can fill out the information ahead of time, but don’t sign the application until an authorized agent at your appointment tells you to sign.
- Gather copies of all proper documentation
Before you can apply for your child’s passport, you need to gather all the proper documentation, such as proof of U.S. citizenship, proof of parental relationship, and your ID. You’ll need a legible, black-and-white photocopy of each document before you go to your appointment.
- Get a passport photo
Unless you already confirmed that the passport facility near you offers a photo service, make sure you bring a passport photo of your child with you. The photo must be in color, clear, and with a white background. A passport photo must also be 2 x 2 inches but you can use the photo tool on the U.S. Department of State website if you need to crop a photo you took yourself.
- Make an appointment
When applying for a passport for your child, both parents have to apply in person. Or, if both parents aren’t available to be there, you can bring a parental consent form. You can search for a passport acceptance facility near you to make an appointment for your family.
- Have fees ready
Before you go to your appointment, be aware of the passport application fees you’ll need to bring with you. The application fee for the passport is $100 and there is a separate execution or acceptance fee of $35. If you choose an expedited passport, be prepared to pay an extra $60.
- Apply for the passport
Once you have your application, proper documentation, passport photo, and fees, you’re ready for your child’s appointment! Be sure to bring all your paperwork with you on that day.
- Track your application
Once you’ve completed the application process, all you have to do is wait. It can take up to 8 weeks for you to receive a passport in the mail but some applicants receive it in much less time. To give you an idea of when your child’s passport will arrive, you can check your application status online.
How Long Does a Passport Last?
The process of getting a passport for your child may be time-consuming, but you don’t have to do it very often. Once you receive your child’s passport, it’s valid for five years for anyone under 16. Once your child is over 16, passports are valid for up to 10 years.
Your child’s appearance can change a lot in one year, but the good news is you don’t have to update your child’s photo every time you travel. As long as the only change to your child is normal aging, they can use the same passport photo as long as the passport is valid.
There’s nothing more exciting than taking your child on their first trip out of the country, but getting a passport for your child can be a hassle. The most important thing is ensuring you apply ahead of time so you’re not waiting for your passport as the trip comes up.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start by filling out the passport application and providing a copy of all documentation. Once you complete the application process, all you can do is wait until your child’s passport has been completed.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock.com.