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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.
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!
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.