There seems to be this urban legend flying around that getting a child a passport is a huge pain in the you know what. While there certainly are a select few stories of long lines, long waits, lost mail, etc., in general getting your child a passport is ridiculously easy. Now that your child has to have a passport even for Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s just good common sense to get your child a passport now, before you’re rushing around at the last minute. Follow our headache-free passport tips below.
Start The Process Early
As in, long before you ever think you’ll even need the passport. Start today. Currently passport turnaround time is about 4 weeks. If you need a passport faster there are various things you can do, which are listed on the State Department’s travel website. But you won’t need a rushed passport if you start early!
Getting The Photo Right
We started the process for Grace’s passport when she was two months old. Following passport photo guidelines is a little tricker for babies than older kids, so we recommend you go someplace that does baby passport photos regularly. It’s a good idea for anyone actually, just to make sure you get it right. We used our local AAA office and after about 8 takes they got it right. If the photo isn’t right, your whole application will be returned to you which could extend the process for weeks.
The photo guidelines from the State Department’s website are:
- 2×2 inches in size
- Taken within the past 6 months, showing current appearance
- Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
- Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
- Taken in normal street attire
- Uniforms should not be worn in photographs.
- Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline unless worn daily for religious purposes.
- Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required.
The tricky part of the above with babies is the white background and full front face view. A newborn baby is obviously not going to sit quietly in front of a white backdrop. At AAA we left Grace in her carseat, put the carseat up on a chair and tucked a white sheet into the carseat behind her head to hide it completely. She kept moving her head around which is why it took multiple takes but in the end we got a good straight on shot.
Get Your Documentation Together
For most children and babies, the primary piece of ID you will need is a certified US birth certificate. If your child was adopted or born abroad, there are other pieces you’ll need. For children under 16 you also have to establish the relationship of both parents to the child at the time of application. This can take the form of the birth certificate, so long as both parents are listed on it and both parents can produce valid ID such as current drivers’ licenses or current passports. Have your passport application form filled out in full before you even leave home, in case you need to look anything up at home.
Go Together To Apply
If you possibly can, both parents should go together to apply. If for some reason both parents aren’t available to appear in person. you will have to have notarized documents from the other parent. Much easier if you can just do it together.
Avoid Lines By Heading Away From Big Cities
Most horror stories about passport applications for kids seem to involve hours-long waits with screaming, sad children in tow. We were in and out in less than 15 minutes with Grace’s application by submitting it, with two parents present, at a suburban passport office (actually our city hall). There are over 9000 locations you can apply for passports so find one that’s far away from crowds and go there. Some actually answer the phone so give them a call and find out when is their slowest time of day.
This entire process from start to finish could be completed in less than a few hours. We highly recommend all children (and adults) have valid passports. You and your kids can’t go global without them!