Though I have traveled internationally myself, I haven’t taken my 9-year old abroad yet except for a visit to the Bahamas while on a cruise. I just recently began making plans to fly her out of the country for the first time. It was a trip to Turks & Caicos in October that has now since been put on hold, due to damage to the resort by hurricane Irma. Since passports for kids expire every 5 years, I didn’t apply for hers until earlier this year.
Disclosure: I’m proud to be partnering with CVS Pharmacy to help spread the word about their photo services. All opinions expressed are my own, and all product claims or program details shared should be verified at CVS.com or with the appropriate manufacturers.
When do you need a passport for your child? While a passport isn’t required when you cruise, I felt nervous the entire time I had my child in port. Say something happens while you are in a foreign port, and you don’t make it back to the ship on time. I worry about these things, perhaps more than I should. Passports for kids are a good idea when cruising, and of course a necessity for all other international travel. Basically, if you plan to visit another country, and that includes Mexico, Canada, and most islands in the Caribbean, your child needs a passport.
Since I am T’s legal guardian, not her birth parent, I had to do a little extra research on the passport application process for minors (children under the age of 16) and learned a few things along the way. Here are my tips for navigating the U.S. passport process for children.
Tips for Getting Passports for Kids
How long will it take to get your child’s passport? Once you’ve had your appointment at a passport acceptance facility, it usually takes 4-6 weeks. An expedited passport, available for an additional fee, takes 2-3 weeks. Expedited at a passport agency, can take as little as 8 days, however, there are certain stipulations that apply including proof of upcoming travel.
Do you need a passport book or passport card? The U.S. Passport Card is less expensive, but has limitations. It can only be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. Only a passport book can be used for international travel by air. If you are going to go through all of the trouble to get your child a passport, I recommend paying a little extra and getting the passport book.
How much does a passport cost? The current cost for a child’s passport in the U.S. is $80 with an execution fee of $25. A passport card is $15 with an execution fee of $25. A passport book plus card is $95 with a $25 execution fee.
What’s the first step? You’ll need to complete the form DS-11 for a U.S. Passport Application. Download the form. Complete everything on the application except the signatures. You’ll need to sign the application in the presence of a passport official.
Gather necessary documents. You will need evidence of your child’s U.S. Citizenship and proof of your relationship to your child, along with your own photo ID. In my circumstance, I provided my child’s birth certificate, the court order showing I am her legal guardian, and my own passport as identification. All evidence of citizenship must be original or certified copies. You will need to bring both originals and a photocopy. Learn more about required documents.
Get a passport photo. A passport photo that is 2×2 inches in size and was taken within the last six months must be submitted for each child. We had our passport photo taken at our local CVS Pharmacy. Passport Photos are available at thousands of CVS/Pharmacy locations for just $13.99. Getting your passport photo at CVS takes just a a few minutes, and no appointment is required. Just remember no smiling. A neutral expression is preferred on passport photos. Otherwise, it might be denied.
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Visit an application acceptance facility. Once you have Form DS-11 completed and all the documents together, contact your nearest application acceptance facility. In my town we had the option of going to the post office or to the clerk of the court. In most instances an appointment is required.
Both parents need to be present. In 2001, the U.S. government began requiring both parents’ signatures on kids’ passport applications. Obviously, the dual-parent signature rule doesn’t work for all families. If the other parent is in agreement about applying for your child’s passport but cannot accompany you to the passport office, he or she can complete a Statement of Consent and have it notarized to prove the authenticity of the signature. If the other parent is unavailable, complete the “Statement of Special Circumstances,” which can be found at the bottom of the Statement of Consent. This will allow you to explain why it is not possible for the other parent to give consent.
There are some exceptions to the dual-parent signature rule. If only one parent is listed on the birth certificate, then only one signature is required. If you have sole-custody of your child, submit the court order showing establishing custody.
I hope you found this information helpful. Getting passports for children is a relatively straightforward process, if you are properly prepared. The FAQ section of travel.state.gov has a lot more good information that may help with your specific situation.
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