by: Esther Lee
Are you getting ready to take your family out of the country for the first time? Be sure to get passports for all of your junior jetsetting kids well in advance because the US passport system is as slow as a new mom getting out of the house for the first time. Here are the main things that you’ll need to know.
My baby’s only 6 weeks old, does he need a passport?
If you’re headed out of the good ol’ United States of America, the answer is “Yes.” Everyone needs a passport. Whether you’ve got a newborn baby or a teenager, your kids will need a passport when travelling internationally (that includes Canada and Mexico).
Got it. So, I need a passport for my kids, now what?
The next step is to get 2 passport pictures of your sweet pea. Be sure to check the photo quality requirements in order to avoid delays or rejections. One of the requirements for passport photos is for the head to be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
Places like Ritz Camera, Wolf, Costco and local pharmacies are typically trained in passport requirements. I took my 4 week old newborn to Wolf because they said they were trained in infant pictures. We did 10 takes with my baby sitting precariously on a stool with no neck muscles and me trying to support him without being in the picture before getting the “right” picture.
Ok. I’ve got photos now. What’s next?
Now that you’ve got passport pictures, you’re ready for the next step. Whether your child is in diapers or Converse, they must be present when applying for a passport. Let’s focus on what needs to happen for kids under the age of 16. Both parents must accompany the child when applying for the passport. The rules are slightly different if your child is 16 or 17, but we’ll cover that later on.
You’ll have to submit a completed DS-11 form (I would recommend downloading this and filling it out in advance). Be sure to have adequate documentation regarding your child and yourselves. You’ll be asked to sign all the docs in front of the Acceptance Agent, so leave those signature lines blank until you’re asked to give your John Hancock.
If both parents can not be present, there are alternatives such as providing a notarized form…check the State Department’s website for more details.
We’re heading to the post office, what do I need again?
Here’s a quick checklist of what you should have with you.
How long does it take?
Once submitted to the post office, it typically takes about 10 weeks or more. Even with expedited service plus overnight mail, you’ll still be looking at 3-4 weeks. Spring and summer are the busy seasons, so beware. If you liked to travel internationally before having kids and hope to still globetrot with baby in tow, be sure to get all this squared away ASAP.
Oh no, I’m leaving next week, what are my options?
The US Passport Agency does offer expedite services, but it will require a fairly time consuming trip to your Regional Passport Agency and cost your wallet at least $60 per passport. Click here to contact the US National Passport Information Center for an appointment or to locate a nearby Regional Passport Agency.
What if my kid’s 16 of 17 years of age?
If your child is 16 or 17 and have their own photo ID card, they can actually go apply for a passport by themselves. If they do not have photo identification you as a parent must go and present photo identification. If your child applies on his/her own time without you, you’ll have to provide the passport office with written parental consent. Depending on your family situation, there are various alternatives if only one or no parent is able to be present. Please see the State Department Rules for more information.
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