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How (and When) to Get a Passport for Your Child

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With mask and travel restrictions lifting, you may be considering a long-distance vacation with your family. If you’re planning to fly to another country, everyone will need a passport, including your children. But don’t expect to get it done quickly (without paying a pretty penny, and even then, “quickly” is debatable). The process to obtain official government identification for kids to travel internationally takes time—and must be done in person. Here’s what you need to know.

At what age does a child need a passport?

Whether your baby was born eight weeks or eight years ago, they will need a passport to leave the country by air. According to AmericanPassport.com, “Every US citizen, regardless of age, must have a passport to travel abroad. Newborn babies, infants, and toddlers all need a passport to leave and enter another country.”

How do you apply for a kid’s passport?

The first step is to complete form DS-11 for your child. You’ll be required to provide information such as their gender, social security number (which can take several weeks to arrive after your newborns’ SSN application is submitted), weight and hair color, your travel plans, and emergency contact information. Be prepared to provide personal information, including your citizenship status and current passport information. Fill out the form, but don’t sign it until you are in the presence of an authorized agent at an official passport acceptance facility.

You must also provide a 2-inch by 2-inch color photograph of your child (on a white background) taken within the last six months to accompany the DS-11. It can be tricky to get newborns and infants to have their eyes open during the passport photo; if possible, make sure they’re not minutes from nap time.

Everyone up to the age of 16 is considered a minor when applying for a passport, and the application will need to be made in person with both parents or legal guardians present. (If one parent is unable to attend, you’ll need a notarized Statement of Consent signed by the absent parent or guardian.) At age 16 and above, a child can apply for a passport as an adult.

Provide proof of U.S. citizenship

To support your child’s application, you’ll need to provide evidence of American citizenship in the form of an original or certified physical copy of a U.S. birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, or Certificate of Citizenship. (Photocopies, notarized copies, and digital proof of citizenship will not be accepted.)

However, in addition to the physical copy of the birth certificate, you will need to provide a photocopy of the front and back side of the birth certificate, or other proof of citizenship document. See here for full instructions.

The birth certificate will serve as proof of parental relationship, which is also required. Gather your own identification (either passport, driver’s license, certificate of naturalization or other valid form of ID, and a photocopy) and make an appointment at your nearest passport acceptance facility.

How much does a passport cost?

If applying for a new passport for a child under 16, you can expect to pay $135 (for routine processing). The current acceptance fee (to be paid to the passport facility, such as the post office, library, or other municipal building) is $35. There is a separate application fee (to be sent off to the U.S. Department of State). Passport books for children under are 16 are are $100. (There is a passport “card” available for $15, but this is not valid for international air travel; it’s only valid for entering the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.)

How long does it take to get a passport?

As of this writing, the routine processing time is eight to 11 weeks. (This is subject to change—timing updates can be found here.) Expedited processing (five to seven weeks) is available for an additional fee of $60. Once issued, a child’s passport is good for five years.

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