January 15, 2018

Applying for a Child's Passport

So you've got a kid and you want to travel. What next?

Applying for a passport in the United States is relatively straightforward, albeit not inexpensive, whether you're an adult or if you're a parent looking to acquire one for your little bundle (or toddler tornado) of joy. I've broken the process down into three steps, found below.

1. Take a Passport Photo
This will likely be the most difficult part of the passport application process. As you well know, getting a good picture of an infant or young child is not easy even without fairly specific criteria.

Endlich! She is facing the camera, mouth closed, both ears and
chin visible, and eyes were open. Hallelujah.
According to the State Department website, a passport photo must meet the following salient requirements (full list can be seen here):
  • Your head must face the camera directly with the full face in view. [No shadows on the face, no tucked chins, both ears visible.]
  • Your face must have a neutral expression or a natural smile with both eyes open.
  • The photo must have been taken in the last 6 months.
  • The background must be white or off-white.
  • The photo must be 2 x 2 inches with the head measuring approximately 1 to 1 3/8 inches (25 to 35mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
Did any of you parents laugh out loud at the thought of managing this with your squirming infant or whirlwind toddler? I know I did!

Take a deep breath. Go into this with a lot of patience and don't be surprised if it takes more than one session to get the photo you need.

If your child is too young to sit up, lay them down on the floor on top of a white sheet or drape a white sheet over their car seat and recline them there. Make sure you are in a room with a lot of bright, natural light, perhaps supplemented with artificial lighting as well. Position yourself in such a way that you are not casting a shadow on them; use the flash on your camera if need be. Start snapping photos. Take hundreds, if necessary, until you have a photo that meets all the State Department's parameters. 

Once you have your photo, you can upload it for printing from many different retailers (Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens are several options) or print out a color copy yourself on matte or glossy photo paper. You will need to have two copies of the 2 x 2 inch photo.

As of the time I wrote this, we have taken over 150 photos of our five month old and FINALLY have an acceptable photo! In most of the photos, either her ears weren't visible, she was grimacing, the photo was taken too close (and cannot be shrunk to meet the photo to face ratio), or her clothing was covering her chin. But persistence eventually paid off.

2. Complete the Passport Form & Gather Supporting Documentation
When applying for a new passport for an infant or child, you will use the DS-11 application form (renewals or changes/corrections to an existing passport use different forms). You cannot apply online for a new passport for your infant or child; you must take the completed form to a passport center. Because of this, I recommend printing off the completed form or printing a blank form and completing it manually.

Additionally, you will need to provide proof of your child's U.S. citizenship.* At this time, a birth certificate is the only acceptable proof listed on the State Department's website. You will need to take this original document along with a black and white photocopy (front and back if there is information on both sides) with you when you submit the application. A birth certificate will also be used to prove your parental relationship to the child.**

You will also be required to present a photo ID to the acceptance agent, along with a photocopy of that ID, front and back. Yes, there are a lot of IDs required for this! Don't worry - I've recapped and listed all the forms and IDs in the final step below.

Once the DS-11 is completed and you have gathered the documentation, you're ready to submit the full application package.

*If your child is not a U.S. citizen, please consult with the State Department regarding travel outside of the U.S.
**If you are not the biological parent, whether due to adoption or having legal guardianship of the child, you will need to bring proof of your status as legal parent or guardian along with a black and white copy of that documentation if that information is not specified on the child's birth certificate.

3. Submitting the Passport Application Package
You've run the photo gauntlet, cramped your fingers completing the DS-11 form, photocopied all IDs plus the kitchen sink (because, you just never know...), so now what?

You must apply for the passport in person with both your child and any/all legal guardians present (father, mother, etc.).* To find the nearest passport acceptance facility, you can simply input your zip code into the State Department website here: https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/. Some places may require an appointment, or you can simply show up within the hours stated on the site.

While there, as parents/legal guardians, you will give parental consent to authorize the issuance of a passport for your child. This is typically just as simple as verbally consenting to the passport acceptance officer. Then you will pay for the application and execution fees (see here for a breakdown of the fees) and walk out the door. The application will be processed and mailed to you, typically within six to eight weeks.** Then the world is yours!

*If another legal guardian/parent is unable to appear for any reason, then a DS-3053 form (Statement of Consent) or DS-5525 form (Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances) will need to be completed prior to applying in person. Please see the State Department website for more details.

**I recommend applying for a passport at least three months before you actually plan to use it. Otherwise I believe there are options in which you can pay to expedite the process.

➮ Take a passport photo
➮ Complete the DS-11 form
       ➮ Bring the child's birth certificate along with a photocopy
       ➮ Bring the photo ID of all legal guardians along with a photocopy
➮ Take the passport application package to the nearest acceptance facility
       ➮ The application package consists of: passport photos, DS-11 form, child birth certificate
           & copy, parental/guardian IDs & copy, passport application fee
       ➮ All legal guardians present or forms completed for guardians not present
       ➮ Pay the application and execution fees

Have Passport. Will Travel.
While I have endeavored to accurately convey the information and passport application process as published on the U.S. State Department's website, what I have written above cannot be taken as official or legal counsel.

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1 comment:

  1. Great info! I’ll need to reference this soon!


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