Your journey to exploring the world with your family starts with a passport! It gives you the freedom to jump on the next amazing deal to Europe or take advantage of over 159 countries U.S. citizens can travel to visa free.
A minor's passport is for children ages 16 and under and is valid for 5 years!!! Oh the places you could go in 5 years! Many countries require at least 6 months validity so if you think you may want to go on a trip with your family in the next two years you should definitely apply soon. Kids grow so fast and there are many reasons to travel with kids, why wait?
The good news is you can save your money on a babysitter because passport agencies require parents to bring them with you and apply in person. I know what you're thinking, wait times and kids don’t mix but they’ll have a greater interest (and hopefully patience) if you include them in the process. Tell them stories of where you can go together, show them their documents, their photos and let them open the package when it arrives in the mail like a present. If that truly doesn’t spark their interest yet make an appointment and bring snacks, books or an iphone with Netflix. You got this Mom!
To make things simple, here are 6 easy steps to getting a passport for your kids so that you can avoid delays and start experiencing the wonders of the world with the ones you love most.
1. Complete the US State Government form DS-11
Passport forms can be found here. It's a simple 2 page form.
Using the Form Filler is the best option as it will create a unique barcode for your application. Don’t make any handwritten corrections once the application is printed and do NOT sign the form until you are instructed to do so at the acceptance facility. Use the child's full legal name and social security number. Remember your child has to apply in person with you.
2. Proof of Child’s U.S. Citizenship
To get a U.S. passport you will need to show one proof of citizenship (yay! only one!). Acceptable documents include:
Certified birth certificate issued by the Vital Records Office from the city, county or state your child was born in (this includes children born in U.S. territories). It must include the registrar’s seal, signature and date the birth was filed at the registrar’s office. Bring in the original documents, do not bring printed copies. And bring the full version, for example, my children have two page birth certificates and I would have to bring in both pages if I were applying.
Consular report of American birth abroad form FS-240, CRBA or Certificate of Report of Birth form DS-1350. More details can be found here.
Certificate of citizenship Form N-600
Certificate of naturalization
US Passport valid undamaged and it can be expired (Yay!)
3. Proof of Parental Relationship
To apply for your child’s passport you will have to show proof that you are the parent or legal guardian.
Proof of parental evidence includes original documents from just one of the following:
Child’s certified birth certificate listing both parents names.
Child’s certified foreign birth certificate listing both parents names. English translations must be submitted with all foreign documents.
Child’s report of birth abroad listing both parents names. English translations must be submitted with all foreign documents.
Adoption decree listing both parents names.
Court order establishing custody and guardianship (unless child’s travel is restricted by the court order)
**Both parents must be present when applying in person, if one parent can not be there attach the Form DS-3053 “Statement of Consent” to the application. Remember to bring a copy of your marriage certificate if your name has changed since any of the documents were issued (trust me I’ve forgotten this before and it's not fun to have to go back). Previous US passports are not accepted as proof of relationship.
If you are a single parent:
You will need to show proof of your sole custody by either bringing in a court order granting you sole custody (such as a divorce decree or custody order), bringing a birth certificate or adoption decree listing you as the only parent, having the other parent sign the Form DS-3053 to explain “special circumstances,” a judicial declaration of “incompetence” of non-applying parent, a death certificate of non-applying parent or if you can not locate the other parent fill out form DS-5525.
If neither parent can apply in person:
You can apply via third party submission. You must have the third party person bring in a written Notarized affidavit (less than 3 months old) from both parents/guardians giving them permission to apply for a passport. The statement must include a photocopy of the parents identification. Single parents will need the third-party to bring custody papers to the application office.
4. Parent Identification
This is an easy one, parents need to simply present identification (make sure to bring a photocopy of your ID as well).
Print the photocopy on standard stock plain white paper showing both front and back of your ID. Only print on one side of the paper and do not decrease the size of the image. Also remember to bring a copy for each child’s application your applying for because applications can not be combined. Acceptable IDs include:
Driver’s license (valid)
U.S. passport (undamaged)
Military or Government ID (current)
Certificate of naturalization
Secondary IDs can be used If you do NOT have any of the IDs listed above. Acceptable secondary IDs can be from one of the following:
Present ALL of these documents: Social security card, credit card, employee ID and a library card (remember to bring photocopies of all of these proofs as well)
Bring an identifying witness in person with you to the application office. The witness must fill out the Form DS-71 in front of a passport agent, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have a valid ID (US passport, driver’s license, military or government ID), bring a photocopy of their ID and have known you for at least 2 years.
5. Bring 2 Passport Photos
You will need to bring in 2 identical color photos of your child. The challenge is getting them to sit for one, ha!
Photos must be recent full face photos, on 2x2 inch paper with a white or off-white background and with no other people in the background! If the baby can not sit up try taking the picture with him laying down or in a carseat with a white sheet behind him.
We had our baby’s picture taken at the passport acceptance facility which was easier but also we felt rushed, as a new mom I really wanted a nice passport picture, I know I know. Luckily you can also go to your local USPS or AAA office and they can take photos for you without feeling rushed (whew!). Either way you may end up with a good laugh at the picture later, let's be honest babies and toddlers can make more weird faces that you can count, so don’t fret too much about the perfect picture.
6. Pay Fees
There are three options to choose from when applying for a passport:
Minor passport book only The application fees is $80. A passport book is good for all international and domestic travel. With the passport book the skies the limit!
Minor passport card only The application fee is $15 but is only good for sea and land entries into Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda or on all domestic flights. A passport card is not valid for international travel.
Minor passport book & card The application fee is $95. This gives you both options however if you have a passport book there's really no need to get the card unless you want a smaller ID to travel within North America.
If you’re only planning on traveling to Mexico or Canada the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) says that children under 16 only need a birth certificate to re-enter by land or sea however a passport is the best form of identification plus it gives you more options for future trips. Click here for more information.
Passport Acceptance Facilities do not accept credit and debit cards but they do accept:
Checks (personal, certified, cashiers, or travelers)
Money orders payable to the “U.S. Department of State”.
US Passport Agencies accept all forms of payment including:
Checks (personal, certified, cashiers, travelers) payable to the “U.S. Department of State”.
Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express) or debit cards with a Visa or Mastercard logo.
Money orders (U.S. Postal, international, currency exchanges) payable to “U.S. Department of State”.
Cash exact amount only!
Prepaid credit card or gift card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logo.
All applications have to pay a separate execution (acceptance) fee of $35. All locations accept money orders payable as instructed by the facility. Some locations accept personal checks, exact cash or credit cards. Always verify acceptable payment methods before going to the acceptance facility.
Typically routine processing takes between 6-8 weeks. You can expedite your order which takes around 2-3 weeks by paying an additional $60 fee if you have urgent international travel plans. However if you apply at a government passport agency they can expedite your passport in roughly 8 business days! Seriously the fastest I’ve seen the government process a document! Processing times are shortest if you apply between September and December and you’ll likely get your passport sooner. If you think you will be traveling in less than 2 weeks or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks you can schedule an appointment at a U.S. Department of State passport agency.
WHERE TO APPLY
Now that you have all your documents you can make an appointment or walk into one of the Passport Acceptance Facilities near you which will have more options on locations or a U.S. Department of State Passport agency which will have faster processing times but limited locations. Once you apply you can check on your application status here.
Follow these 6 steps whether you are applying for the first time or renewing and you and your little ones are on your way to new adventures! There are many reasons to travel with your kids so don’t let time pass you by!
Aloha and happy travels,