How to Get a US Passport for a Newborn

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When our first daughter was born we didn’t fly with her for a variety of reasons until she was 11 months old, but the time table for our second traveler is likely to be very different.  In fact, she isn’t even born yet and there are about a half dozen flights already booked or penciled in for her first few months of life (assuming all goes well).  I can already attest to life very much not stopping for a second born, and I found myself with a work commitment out of the country roughly a month after she is due.  Of course, I plan to bring her as that is way too soon for me to feel comfortable leaving her, especially since I will hopefully be nursing.

This means that virtually the moment she is born we have to start the process of getting her passport since even newborns need passports to travel outside of the United States.  Since I have been working through the steps we will need to take to make that happen, I thought it was a good time to share the steps on how to get a US passport for a newborn.  I wrote a similar post on getting a passport for my toddler here, but keep reading for an updated newborn version of that post.

How to Get a Passport for a Newborn

1.  Have the baby.

Okay this one may seem obvious, but there are really no actionable items you can take to get the child’s passport beyond researching the process and perhaps starting to fill out what you can on the DS-11 until your child is actually born.  This isn’t like trying to get a nanny or a slot in a coveted daycare where you need to put down a deposit potentially before the child is even conceived in some parts of the country!

2.  Request a birth certificate ASAP.

You won’t be able to get the passport until you have the certified birth certificate, so be sure to complete that relevant birth certificate paperwork as soon as possible after the child is born and then request a copy (long form) of the birth certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics ASAP.  The commemorative version you may get from the hospital does not count as it needs to be the certified copy with the registrar’s signature and embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal of the registrar

You will not really be able to move forward with the passport process until you have the official birth certificate.  The exact process of getting the birth certificate varies around the country, but often it is possible within the first week or two of life.

I will also add that you don’t have to have the newborn’s social security number yet in order to get a passport, though if you have one it must be provided.

3.  Make appointment at a passport agency, if needed. 

If you are in a hurry to get the birth certificate like we will be, you can request an appointment at a passport agency if travel is within 2 weeks, or 4 weeks if you also need to apply for a visa.  Your child really must be born in order to request this appointment as you have to enter the date of birth on the online appointment request form.  If you aren’t in a rush you can also apply at many post offices or court houses.

4.  Take passport photos.

How to Get a Passport for a NewbornThis part is probably pretty humorous with a newborn as they kind of look like blobs, are squirmy, can’t hold their necks up, and they sleep much of the time.  However, they still need passport photos, and you can’t be in the photo with them.  They need to be looking at/toward the camera, preferably with eyes open, though that isn’t required for infants and newborns.  With infants and newborns you can lay the baby on their back on a white sheet or blanket and take the photo from above (just be sure there are no shadows on their face).  You can also cover a car seat with a white sheet and take the photo of them in that manner.

As with all passport photos, the photos need to be in color, printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper, 2 x 2 inches in size, and the head needs to be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inch from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.

5.  Collect and complete the necessary forms and paperwork.

For most US born infants, you will need the following items to apply for a US passport:

  • Completed, unsigned form DS-11
  • Certified birth certificate meeting the criteria outlined above (serves as both evidence of U.S. citizenship and evidence of relationship) – if parents’ full names are not both listed on the birth certificate, you will need some additional documentation
  • Parent’s ID (valid driver’s license will work)
  • Copy of each identification document
  • Two passport photos
  • Payment for fees (fees will likely be $105 – $165 depending if you require expedited handling)

6.  Go in person to the passport agency

Newborns and children under 16 have to apply for one in person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility. The child and both parents or guardians must be present, or if that isn’t possible, you can submit documents for the parent not in attendance including a notarized Form DS-3053. (details here)

7.  Travel for 5 years (4.5 years) with the new passport!

Child passports are only good for 5 years, and really most of the time that means 4.5 years since the passport often has to be more than 6 months out from expiring for most trips.  This means you will have to renew your child’s passport many times before they hit adulthood.  Unfortunately, even the renewal process for children under 16 must be completed in person, so if you can get your family members on a similar schedule for renewals at some point that may be beneficial rather than having to track multiple expiration dates for multiple family members and risk not having a current passport when it comes time to travel.

I’m considering renewing my husband and/or Little C’s when we get our second traveler’s passport just so that we aren’t repeating some of this process again in another year or two.  If we don’t do that this time around due to how crazy life will probably be at that moment, we certainly will be batching them at least two at a time the next time someone is due for renewal.

8.  Consider getting Global Entry and/or NEXUS

Unlike with TSA Pre-Check, your Global Entry perks do not translate to your child.  Children, even newborns, have to be approved for that all on their own.  If they aren’t then your Global Entry won’t do you much good when you travel abroad with your family.  I will write a separate post on that process, but here is how we got Global Entry and NEXUS for our oldest daughter for free.

How to Get a US Passport for a Newborn

 Have you ever had to get a passport for a newborn?  How did the process go?

Comments

  1. Great advice! I would add that in many places you can apply for a passport at a courthouse, where you don’t need an appointment (in place of a post office, where you typically do need an appointment). Also bring a check or money order, no credit cards!

    My kids are dual citizens so we have gone through this for US and UK, twice for my son and once for my daughter. Both had 2 passports by 2 months old, lucky kids 🙂

    We have global entry for all of us as well, such an easy process, the “interview” for them was super easy, and we were all in and out in about 10 minutes.

    Good luck with the new baby 🙂

  2. We were able to apply for our son’s passport at our local post office. Much better than driving cross town to the West LA Federal. Building. We used Costco to take the passport pictures.

  3. Go to the US Post Office. The biggest challenge we had was with the picture since we got a photo when he was 4 days old.

  4. You are very brave to travel out of the country just a few weeks after the baby is born! Not sure of your position on vaccines, but the one thing we were told is that you should ideally wait to travel until after two month shots for any big trips. Our doctor advised us to wait and we specifically timed our trip first big “trip” after our second daughter was born to coincide with vaccines so we weren’t putting the baby at a greater risk since their immune systems are so new. Good luck!

    • Yeah not our ideal situation, but she will be kept close to us and we aren’t traveling too far out of the country.

    • Agreed. Ideally newborns shouldn’t be on a plane till at least 3 months where they are starting to build some immunity.

      • Newborn build immunity as soon as they are born vaginally, and when they drink their first colostrum milk. So newborns that are breastfed are a lot more “vaccinated” than people think. Newborns are allowed to travel 1 day old, if the doctor permits.

  5. We went through this process last year when my daughter was born. We were traveling to Ireland 3 weeks after the day she was born so we did not have much time to get the passport. The most difficult part of the process was getting the hospital to transmit the birth information to the state so that I could get the birth certificate. I was told by the hospital that this could take up to 6 weeks! Thankfully the hospital expedited this for us. The rest of the process was painless and no different from any other expedited passport application. We went through the post office and our post office did not require an appointment.

    One other thing to note is that you DO NOT need a social security number for your new born. You can enter all zeros on that part of the form.

    Summer, I would not waste your money to renew your husband’s or daughter’s passport early. You husband is most likely able to renew by mail which is totally painless, and for your daughter, I can think of more painful things than visiting the post office. It isn’t worth the extra money.

    • One thing I forgot to mention is that we were using Avios on Aer Lingus for the trip. BA would not add my daughter to the reservation until we could provide a name and birthdate. Ticketing had to be done manually so the reservation got a little confusing and I had to call several times, but it all worked out in the end.

    • May I ask which state processed your birth certificate? I’ve asked a hospital in Memphis Tennessee about their processing time for a long form birth certificate and they told me it could take 3 months. The issue is I would need to travel around 3 weeks after the baby is born. Any advice?

  6. When I got a passport for my first daughter, the lady at the post office refused to accept the pictures we had brought as she kept insisting that the “colors were off”. After some polite back and forth I understood that she wanted to take the pictures with the post office camera and charge us some $15 in the process… $15 well spent I thought, until I saw the pictures she took and used… I feel bad for my daughter every time I see that passport…. wondering if they get some sort of incentive pay.
    With the second daughter we actually went to a “passport day” in a public library. It was entertaining to say the least (as my visa shows the issuing office as the first line, they had my name as Milano on all the forms). If you use one of those services, suggest confirming in advance payment methods accepted, in my case it was only money orders or checks. And the payment to expedite had to be in a separate money order

  7. I second Post office. It’s much easier than an agency – assuming the one near you is a passport acceptance facility. They usually have a passport desk open limited hours but it only takes a few minutes to work through the application -assuming you have it pre-filled. You also should make sure to have the infant with you!! – which wasn’t exactly clear to me.

    Also you need to have copies of your photo id’s and the photo id – as a parent* – you present must match the one on the passport application – you can’t have a drivers license on one and a passport on the other.

    Keep in mind that unless both parents go – you need a notarized form from the other.

  8. For newborns I recommend that you let the post office take the photos because they are a government agency and it’s on them if the pictures don’t meet the criteria. Both our daughters got their passports around 1 month old. For daughter #1 they had me hold her above my head against the background while mom made faces to get her attention/smile. That worked OK. For daughter #2, the acceptance centers had changed so we went to a different post office which had a background that they were able to lay down on a table. In both cases, the passport officers were really patient taking multiple photos and able to verify immediately that the photo met the criteria on their computer. I don’t think the cost was much more than Walgreens, maybe $10 or $15. It was worth it for the peace of mind.

  9. Great information!

    Slightly off topic but with the notarized documents you mentioned, reminded me of something we have done in the past.

    If you travel outside the US, consider having a notarized document drawn up giving someone in the US your consent to travel with your children. This may prove useful in the event the parent is not able to complete travel once outside the US.

    A typical scenario would be the parent(s) become incapacitated or incarcerated while outside the US.

    This would hopefully make it easier for another family member or friend with the notarized document to accompany the child(ren) back to the US.

  10. Good post and congrats again on the coming baby! When our little one was born in April, we had to go to the US Consulate. As someone else said, no social security number is needed (we applied for that at the same time).
    We used an iPhone app for the photo and then uploaded it to the State Department’s website for photos. It lets you crop it just right for the passport and then you are ready to print. Quick and easy – and free!
    Have a great trip!

  11. I don’t see how it’ll be possible to get Global Entry for the baby in time. Wouldn’t you need A) a birth cert as well as B) an interview? interviews are pretty backed up at most locations…

    Also, do you know if you can bring a child *DOMESTICALLY* through expedited lanes if you have Global Entry, as Global Entry includes TSA Pre? That’s my one concern. Kiddo is currently 5 days overdue (of course), and we have a wedding 5 weeks to fly to (MKE).

    • If you have precheck on your boarding pass, you can bring children (under 12, IIRC) with you regardless of their precheck status. Children never need to show ID at security, though the airline may demand proof of age for lap infants.

  12. We did this for our twins ~5 years ago. Trying to get the PP apps processed by the USPS in Texas (Austin area) was a nightmare. That was not related to this being children, but related to the local USPS being incapable of handling the load. I didn’t know that SSID was not required, but it seems like a unique situation to not have it/use it. We got their numbers within weeks. In fact, we didn’t realize that we had to actually go to the county to get BCs (ie. they don’t issue a BC by default) so waiting on the BCs was the longest delay.

    We just renewed the kids passport, and as MP says it is actually a brand new application every time until they are 16 and get the adult version. Here in Georgia, at the county seat, it took less than 10 minutes for both apps – including the wait time. Of course YMMV, but the sign in sheet was a post it note so I’m thinking they usually don’t have much of a wait. The only issue we had here was that the agent required the original BC to be sent in, which is not required per the Dept of State if you are submitting a prior passport. The existing passport serves as evidence of residency, so the BC can be a photo copy in that situation.

  13. Hi! Im planning to take my baby to her dad outside the US for while im still trying to join the military and on my baby’s paper im a single mom so if I bring my baby outside the US for more than a year do I need to have some kind of documents that im allowing my daughter to live outside the country? Thanks

  14. How do I obtain a passport for my infant if the parents are not together and one refuses to go and get the passport or go to a notary.

    • That is probably a question for the State Department, and I have no direct experience. However, from reading on various boards, I believe if one parent refuses to cooperate the only alternative is a court order. I would hope the barriers to a court order are fairly high since the reasons for the two parent consent are very good. There is also a form DS-5525, but I don’t think that would apply when one parent simple refuses to consent to passport issuance.

      Note that for a parent who has concerns about your child being issued a passport without your consent, you can put your child on a watch list: https://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/preventing/passport-issuance-alert-program.html

  15. Some people mentioned that Post Offices are easier than Agencies… But if you need a passport in 3 weeks, you’re better off at an Agency, right?

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