Does Your Little One Have a Passport?

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One of my proudest moments as a parent had to have been a few months ago when Little C’s passport arrived in the mail and she ran around saying, “I have a passport! I have a passport!” Indeed, you do. What’s even better is that I think she more or less knows what it means. She knows it means you can travel all around the world on an airplane! (Other methods of transportation pale in comparison for this toddler traveler.) I am willing to bet that some are surprised that she did not have a passport sooner, but as I have mentioned before, she would have been the world’s worst infant traveler due to some tummy issues that she had, so there was no real rush for us to get the passport for her until it got closer to when we were going to actually use it. Child passports are only good for five years, so no sense in blowing half of that time-frame before even busting it out of the safe. That said, I immediately felt relieved and excited when it came, as she can now go with me wherever my travels may take me.

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I’m also pretty excited because of what this means generationally for my family. My mom (Grandma Points) got her first passport at 61 years old. I got mine at about 22 years old, and my daughter got hers as a two year old. At this rate, my grandchildren will have their passports in-utero.

In case you have yet to obtain a passport for your little one, I’ll talk you through the steps we went through. It wasn’t hard, but there are some intricacies to the process that you should be aware of. Note, this is just the process to get a US Passport – I am sure the process varies somewhat from country to country.

1. Apply for and receive your child’s social security number, if you haven’t already.

2. Obtain and complete the necessary paperwork. Namely, you will need to complete a Form DS 11. Do not sign the form until you are in front of the person who is accepting your passport application.

3. The child and both parents (some exceptions highlighted below) must appear in person with the completed Form DS 11 and other required documentation. You can go to a Passport Acceptance Facility (many post offices, clerks of court, public libraries and other state, county, township, and municipal government offices) or a Passport Agency. If you need the passport in a hurry, you will want to go to a “Passport Agency” and pay the expedited fees. Otherwise, just made an appointment at your local Post Office. They have now started to require appointments, but we were able to get one for the next day.

You will need to provide proof of citizenship at the appointment. Acceptable methods include: Previously issued, undamaged U.S. Passport; Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state*; Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth; Naturalization Certificate; Certificate of Citizenship. We just brought her birth certificate. Be aware of which type of birth certificate you bring though. Here are the official rules: A certified birth certificate has a registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar’s signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office, which must be within 1 year of birth. Some short (abstract) versions of birth certificates may not be acceptable for passport purposes. The birth certificate must also have the full name of both parents.

You must also have evidence of the relationship with the child. In our case, the birth certificate with both of our names along with our driver’s licenses were enough, but if you have obtained custody or adopted, then you will need to provide that documentation. They make a copy and submit it with the passport application.

If both parents cannot attend in person, then one can attend and have a notarized Statement of Consent for the other parent. That consent must be less than three months old. You can go here for more info about what can be done for cases that involve sole custody or other extenuating circumstances that would prevent both parents from being available. In our case, we both went to the appointment, although it was hard finding a workday that we were both home and did not have other commitments.

4. Provide a photo. Your kiddo will need a color photo that is printed on photo quality paper. The photo must be 2 x 2 inches in size and the head must be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. The photo must be taken in full-face view directly facing the camera with a neutral facial expression and both eyes open.

Does that sound confusing? With a toddler (or infant) it is easier said than done. We had quite a fun time trying to get a photo taken that met those requirements. It worked, but it took several attempts. We had ours taken at the post office, but many other stores that print photos also can take them for you for a small fee (Walgreens, CVS, etc). I highly recommend doing it during a time frame that you think your little one will be in a cooperative mood!

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5. Pay the fees. For a minor passport book the total came to $105 for the application fee and the execution fee. The post office only accepted checks and money orders for the $80 application fee, and we had to make that check out to “Department of State”. We then paid the post office directly for the photo and the execution fee of $25. This process will vary some if you go to a Passport Agency.

A few weeks later, we received Little C’s new passport in the mail! The birth certificate was returned separately a few days before the passport arrived. As you read this we are actually on a trip where she is using it for the first time! It really is a good feeling knowing that all members of the immediate family have a passport. For example, when the United “oops” 4 miles to China fare came along, there were no worries about who had a passport and who didn’t.  We were just able to book the flights without worrying about passports (of course, as it turns out those tickets aren’t honored anyway, but you get the point).  Now that we have the first stamp in Little C’s book, it is time to collect some more.

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  1. I still have my first passport. I was all of 8 weeks old when my parents got it. My mom was telling me how much fun it was to try to hold up and infant and not get in the picture at the same time.

  2. My three year old and my eight year old both have US passports. They are ready to fly and see the world with their mommy and daddy.

  3. I applied for my daughter’s passport three weeks after she was born. Her first international trip is to Montreal in September. Can’t wait 🙂

  4. Our oldest was the waited the longest to get her passport. She was 10 months old. She was 6 weeks old the first time she flew. Both our other two got passport pictures at 2 days old. Our youngest has the flying record because she flew at 13 days old. Our second born was 15 days old the first time he flew.

    When the kids were born we were living overseas and went to Canada to have our kids. We had to start the passport process early in order to get visa applications to get them back to our home in Papua New Guinea.

  5. This brings back such wonderful memories. My daughter’s first passport was at 5 months old and she loves looking at the picture and all her stamps. She is 13 yrs old now and on her 3rd passport.

  6. Little C is deprived if “other methods of transportation (than airplanes) pale in comparison for this toddler traveler.” Ya really need to drag her aboard a cruise ship and get her on a glass bottom boat (Aquarena Springs doesn’t count!). You are now too close to Galveston to miss the boat!

  7. My little one was 1 week old when we took his picture for the passport. You can see my tumb on the picture since I had to hold him for the camera.

  8. A tip for taking the needed picture of infants is to put a white sheet in your childs car seat and take their picture in the seat. It holds the child up and keeps them from rolling around at the same time. Just did it recently with a 4 month old.

  9. Sounds like there are some well traveled little ones out there!! AlohaDaveKennedy, we have a boat that she loves! Cruise ships are on the list….one day. She just loves to fly. Who can blame her? 😉

  10. My youngest was 6 mos on her 1st passport. So small, I had to duck down behind her to hold her upright for her photo. 6yrs and 10 countries later we are on our 2nd passport.

  11. When we got my daughter’s first passport she was two getting the pic was a challenge. When we got to the post office the guy at the desk said something like – “about the picture, are you sure?” Thinking we didn’t have the spacing right we asked if it was not compliant – to which he replied, and I quote “its not that, its just she looks kind of like an alien”. Sort rude to say even if it was a crap pic (and it was). We still laugh about that (she is six now).

  12. Husband is in the military and deploys so our little one has had hers since she was 4 months old. And her parents at very young ages too. Makes life interesting and wild to travel with a young child internationally but worth every hassle and profanity once you make it to your destination and know you are making some amazing memories.

  13. This reminds me fondly of obtaining a passport for my newborn daughter in 1973. We were to return to Iran (from New York) four days after her birth. I rushed to the Passport Agency a few hours after delivery and they issued the passport the next day. Back then all US passports were good for five years. She did not much admire her baby photo on her passport. She was quite proud of having been in four countries before she was a week old. She was a very good traveller then and remained so.

  14. We applied for our child’s at five days old. Of course I was working overseas so it was a bit more necessity.

  15. Silly question, but we have yet to book an international itinerary for the family. Does every family member need a passport if you are booking an international ticket (award or otherwise)? Obviously you need one on the day you travel, but I was wondering if you need a valid one when you’re actually booking the tickets.

  16. I’ve been told that members can get free passport / visa photos at their local AAA offices. Haven’t tried it myself.

  17. yup, all of my kiddos have passports. They expire every 5 years… I keep a running list of expiration dates so I can keep on top of it for all 5 of us!

  18. Mommypoints,
    Newbie here, I am gonna be a Dad in a month. Does infants fly free? If yes, upto how many months/yrs? Also, does it apply to domestic and internation travel?

    This article is very helpful. I have learned a lot about travel after following your blog. Really appreciate what you do.

  19. This post is so timely…. I was just saying to my husband this very morning that it is time to get our three year old a passport! We don’t have any international trips planned, but it is always good to have on standby so you can take advantage of flight deals to Canada or Mexico (or somewhere more far flung too). Thanks for sharing the steps – the process changes so it is nice to have a recent report.

  20. PK – infants fly free in your lap on domestic flights. On international flights you pay 10% of the full adult fare, and in both cases this is only until their 2nd birthday.

    Both my kids passport pictures were taken at 2 weeks old. They are both dual citizens, so they have US and UK passports.

  21. My daughter got her ID at about 7 weeks old – she flew for the first time when she turned 2 months old.

    She got her passport when she was 3 months old. A good trick to take a picture when the child is that young is to lay them on a flat surface and take a picture from the top – we did that and her photo looks very good in the passport. She has so far flown within USA to multiple destinations – LAX, SNA, SAN, BUR, IAH, BUF and internationally to YYZ, DXB, JNB, MAA, and AMD.

  22. Ours got their passports at 5 months. Though we’ve never legally needed them, we’re coming up on the 5th “closed loop” cruise just after they turn 3.

    Unfortunately, that means that 3 of us come up for renewal at the same time. Currently that’ll be $350, but I bet it’ll be closer to $500 in 2014/2015. Anybody know how to get points for a passport app???

    I agree that you should take lil’ C for a short cruise on Triumph. A few days in Camp Carnival will probably turn her travelin’ world over. Then again, points opportunities (acquiring and redeeming) in regards to cruises are really poor, so maybe not! 🙂

    I do wish we had gotten the passport card also. It is useless for passport purposes, but having ‘light’ ID might occasionally come in handy. Like when you’re flying a lapchild on Southwest and they want proof of age, and you didn’t bring passports because you’re flying inside the US. Not that I would know anything about that…

  23. My son got his passport at 8 months old, and we took him to Buenos Aires several months later, when he was 14 mo. It was obviously a more difficult trip than it would have been with just my husband and myself, but it was so worth it. And the Portenos were so kind and gracious and welcoming to our son. They LOVE kids there, to the point where we’ve joked along the lines of “if you’re going to BA without a young kid, rent one!” 😀

    That said, it was pretty funny trying to hold Will well up above my head while crouching on the floor to get his head in front of the white picture backdrop. In his passport photo, he looks all disembodied and you can see just my hands around his waist.

    We’re all off to France for 3 weeks this Fall!

  24. My son got his passport at 3 months old and we used it a year later for a trip to NYC, but it’s somewhat common in our country (Venezuela) to get a passport even if you don´t need it immediately. Now (at 2 years old) he’s about to get his second one (my wife has an EU passport) and 3 years from now he will get the Canadian one :D. And, we are expecting a girl, which I guess will have the three of them within a year 😀

  25. We got our daughter hers as my wife and her are going to stay with my parents a month or so in south france in a few month. Shes excited about flying, and shes a good travel buddy though she doesnt sleep at all on the plane.

  26. My son got his passport at just under 2 months old. We went to Barbados a few weeks later. He’s also flown domestically (NYC-South Dakota). His next international trip is in about 3 weeks. He’ll be just past 7 months old and will be visiting Singapore, Bali & Malaysia.

  27. Our daughter was adopted from Russia as an infant. So her first passport was a Russian passport. Last year I applied for a US passport for her as we were going to take a cruise. You would not believe how difficult it was to get a US passport for a child that is adopted from another country…

  28. We got our little one a passport when she was just over one. We solved the picture dilemma at the pharmacy by grabbing a piece of white poster board from an aisle and putting it on the ground. We just laid her on the ground and took the picture standing over her. No hassle with trying to figure out how to prop her up. Have fun in your travels!

  29. Hey Summer, quick question. Our little guy’s birth certificate required his mother’s maiden name and her current ID lists her married name. Did you have this situation, too? Is submitting your current ID sufficient, or do you also have to submit evidence of the legal name change to prove the parental relationship?

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