Do Kids Need Passports?

Giving your child a passport should be a symbolic moment when the world opens up for them with the gift of travel. However, the process can be lengthy due to efforts concerning safeguarding children from trafficking and child abduction. 

That does mean it is a little more difficult than filling in a form and mailing it. As well as filling in a form and providing evidence, there is a requirement for applying in person with both parents or guardians present.

If you are planning a vacation, you should check if you require a passport for your children before booking the trip. In this guide, we will look at whether kids need passports and what you need to provide to apply for a child’s passport.

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Do Kids Need Passports?

When Do Kids Need Passports?

To leave the United States, your child will require a US passport, even for a newborn baby. The only exceptions to this are to cross the border into either Canada or Mexico. Also, once your child reaches the age of 16, they will be considered for an adult passport, but the rules are a little different before then. That includes evidence for the parents or guardians of their relationship with the child, as well as photo identification too.

Are children required to carry their passports at all times? Is it even safe for them to travel without it? The United States has strict laws regarding international travel. To enter or leave the country, citizens must present proof of citizenship. If U.S. citizens don’t have the correct documents, they cannot board a plane or cross into another state.

What Are The Passport Regulation Rules For Under 16’s?

The U.S. Department of State requires all children under age 16 must file a passport application in person with two parents/guardians using Form DS-11 and pay the required fee. Passports for children under age 16 are valid for five years.

U.S. Passport processing can take 6 to 9 weeks, sometimes longer at peak times. Expedited processing times of 3 to 5 weeks can occur for an additional cost. Plan ahead, so your child receives their passport in plenty of time before you travel. 

Do Babies Need Passports?

Do Babies Need Passports?

Regardless of your child’s age, if they are flying to a different country, they must present a passport at the airport check-in. Yes, a baby must have a passport to travel overseas, outside of the United States. Read this article to learn more about getting your baby or child a U.S. Passport.

Passport applications for children born abroad must include proof of legal adoption or lawful custody. The U.S. Department of State recommends that minors travel with their passports and photo identification cards at all times.

How Do You Apply For A Passport For Your Child?

The first step in applying for a U.S. passport for your child is to download the DS-11 form online.

U.S. Passports can take 6 to 9 weeks to process, sometimes longer. If your family travels often or if you already know you have upcoming trips abroad, it’s smart to start the process of obtaining your children’s passports early.

This way, you won’t have to scramble later in the process if you decide to apply for a passport while your kids are still young.

Applying For A Child’s Passport

To apply for a child’s passport, the specific form DS-11 should be completed, and the child must be accompanied by two parents or guardians in-person to consent and authorize the passport. 

Also, refrain from signing the form until the acceptance agent requests you to. To go with the form, you will need citizenship evidence for the child and evidence of the parent’s or guardian’s relationship with the child. You will also need photo identification for yourselves as parents or guardians, as well as photocopies, a passport photograph, and fees to bring to a passport acceptance facility. 

You will also need a color photograph that measures two by two inches, though there are also other requirements for that too. Finally, you will need to schedule an appointment for the application, which you can do on the phone or online, and you may have to wait a few weeks.

Citizenship Evidence

There are various forms of documentation that you can use as US citizenship evidence. One is a Certificate of Citizenship; another is a US Birth Certificate. Bring your original or certified copies with photocopies for the application too. 

Secondary Citizenship Evidence

Do not worry if you have neither of those documents, as other acceptable documents count as secondary evidence of US citizenship. Either a delayed birth certificate (one is filed over a year after a child’s birth) or a Letter of No Record, which is a letter from the registrar. Other documents will be required to accompany a Letter of No Record, including public or private records like an early school record, hospital birth certificate, a family bible record, or a baptism certificate.

Parental Relationship Evidence

There are several ways to prove that you are the parents or guardians of the child applying for the passport. That includes their US birth certificate, a divorce or custody decree, and an adoption decree. The US birth certificate is typically the ideal document to bring as it evidences both the parental relationship and the US citizenship. 

Parents/Guardians Identification

That’s right, the parents or guardians have to provide their own identification too. This can include their own valid passport, Certificate of Citizenship, or Certificate of Naturalization. Parents or guardians can also bring an in-state or enhanced valid driver’s license or a government employee ID. As well as paper copies of these documents, you will need to submit them as photocopied versions.  

The Color Photograph 

As long as you can get your child to stay still, the color photograph should be straightforward. Aside from the measurements, it should be taken within six months of the passport applications, and the child’s head must be directly facing the camera without them wearing eyeglasses or a head covering (unless evidence can be provided to prove why they are necessary). In the photograph itself, the child’s head must be between one and one and three-eighths of an inch from the top of their head to the bottom of their chin. There should also be a plain white or an off-white background behind the child when the photo is taken. 

Even what the child is wearing is important as it should not appear in a uniform or attire that could be considered camouflage. Simply dress your child in the clothes they would wear on a normal day, not for a fancy dress party or a formal event. Finally, the photo should be printed on glossy or matte photo-quality paper.

Where to Apply for a Child’s Passport?

Once you have gathered all the documents, you will need to find a passport acceptance facility. You cannot mail a child’s passport application in the US; it must be submitted in person at a passport acceptance facility. 

Of course, there will be fees to pay too for either the passport book, the card, or both together. If everything is in order, it may take another two weeks to process while the application is posted and the payment is processed. 

Many passport acceptance facilities are located within U.S. post offices, and they provide passport photo services at some locations. Learn more about a passport acceptance facility near you.

Traveling With Kids

Whether you are planning to go away with the family or take a holiday with your kids, it is important to make sure that you do everything necessary to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Traveling with children can be stressful, especially if you don’t know what to expect or how to handle situations that arise. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your journey with your little ones.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead helps to avoid unexpected issues and ensures that everyone gets where they want to go safely and comfortably.

Check out the latest news about security and safety measures in areas you might visit, such as airports, train stations, and tourist spots.

Also, consider whether any special events are happening during your visit that you and your children might like to attend. If you are flying with young children, ensure enough travel snacks and drinks are handy. You never know when your toddler might need to nap while traveling.

Final Thoughts

Getting a passport for a child is no easy task. It takes time and effort to gather all the necessary paperwork. But once you get started, it shouldn’t take long to complete the process.

And when you receive their new passport, you’ll be able to travel anywhere in the world without worrying about getting lost in translation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do infants require a Social Security number in order to apply for a passport?

While a Social Security number is not required for a passport application, if the child has one, then it has to be provided. If the child has not been provided with one, then you will need to enter five zeroes on the DS-11 passport application form. Typically, a Social Security number is applied for at the same time as the US birth certificate as agencies share the information, and it should take less time to process than when you apply for it separately. 

What about the travel requirements for US Children Entering Canada Or Mexico?

Thankfully, the travel requirements for both Canada and Mexico are a little easier. US children under the age of 16 only require proof of their US citizenship to travel to Canada. Like any other US citizen, they can still travel with a valid US passport, a NEXUS card, or simply a passport card. For Mexico, children under the age of 16 can use their birth certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, or Certificate of Naturalization to travel. 

For more about family travel, check out these posts:
How To Start Saving For A Vacation With Kids
Complete guide to getting your baby or child a U.S. passport
Navigating Airport Security with Children
Helpful Tips for Flying with a Toddler
How To Pack Liquids For Air Travel
Is It Illegal To Take Your Child Out Of School For A Vacation?
How To Plan A Vacation

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The BE Family Travel Team writes articles to help parents travel with children.