Passports for Children - What You Need to Know
We recently got passports for our two children, ages 4 and 2 so that they can travel with us if we go out of the country. We didn’t have any concrete travel plans at the time we applied for the passports but thought we should get them sooner rather than later in case anything came up.
Applying for a passport for a child under 16 is different than it is for an adult. It especially gets tricky if the parents are not married. Both legal parents of a child under 16 need to be present in person at the passport office for a child to apply for a passport. This is to protect the child from being taken out of the country unknowingly or unwillingly. It seems like a lot of work but it is in the best interest of the child.
The second thing you will need for the child is an original copy of their birth certificate. If you don’t have one, most states have an option to order one from their official records department. For one of my daughters, we couldn’t find her birth certificate so I went in person to the county office and got a document printed out for me in about 10 minutes. Every state/county varies so please check with your applicable records department well in advance of when you need the document to ensure you have it when you need it.
You will need a passport photo. The guidelines for a passport photo are pretty strict so ensure you follow them. They can be found on the official US govt passport office’s website (linked below). Many passport offices will take the photo for you for a fee (currently $18) or you can go somewhere like Walgreens and they will take them for a little bit less money (it was $15 when we got ours). Our two year old wasn’t super excited about standing in front of a screen to have her photo taken so it took some time to get a good picture. I was worried that her pose might not be acceptable but I think they are more lenient on small children.
You will need to fill out the passport application form for each child. The forms are pretty straightforward. We filled ours out at home and printed them to bring and sign at the passport office once we were there.
The last thing that is different about child passports is that they are only good for 5 years and cannot be renewed. You must apply again in person with both parents to get a new passport unless the child is 16 or older. Once a child gets a passport after their 16th birthday the process is essentially the same as an adult and it is good for 10 years. The only difference is that a 16 or 17-year-old needs to show that one parent is aware of the passport application. Again see the official passport website for full guidelines.
When we got the passports for our children we expedited one of them since we would possibly be taking her out of the country before the 12 weeks it would take to get the passport. This cost an extra $60 dollars. In the end, we got both of my daughters' passports within about 5 weeks so there was no need to expedite one of them.
Overall the process to get a child's passport can seem daunting at first but it isn’t all that difficult once you do it. If you want more information about getting a passport for your child visit the official US passport office website here: US Travel Dept