If you’re planning on international family travel, every member needs to have a passport—even the littlest ones. Follow this guide to secure passports for your kids.
Traveling with children is a wonderful thing. After all, it exposes them to new sights, sounds, foods, languages, cultures, and more. Taking your kids outside the United States to see other parts of the world is an especially educational and enriching experience. Of course, just like an adult, every child who travels outside of the U.S. needs a passport—even the tiniest of newborns! Read on for some key tips on passport requirements for children in America and how you can keep your child’s passport safe when you travel.
1. Remember the validity period.
As already stated, every child traveling outside the country needs a valid passport. But, because they grow and change in appearance so quickly, children under the age of 16 are issued passports that are good for only 5 years, rather than 10 years (for adults). After all, if you get a passport for an infant and take him traveling again as a four- or five-year-old, he’ll certainly look very different by that point!
2. Be sure that you have all of the proper documentation.
The documentation for children’s passports is taken very seriously as a measure of protecting against child abductions. So, both parents of the child who is receiving a passport have to be present at the passport agency (usually a post office) to present proof of identification. If both parents can’t appear (due to divorce or geographic inconvenience, for instance), you’ll need to complete a parental consent form, which must be signed and notarized by the non-appearing parent. If your child is adopted, you will need the adoption decree in hand when you apply. If you are the legal guardian of a child who is not biologically yours, you will need to bring any pertinent court orders certifying that you have the right to travel with the child in question. You will also need your child’s birth certificate. All documents must be originals; copies are not accepted. Once you complete the government application, you’ll receive the passport in the mail, usually within six weeks. If you need the passport faster (in two to four weeks), you may be able to get it by visiting your regional passport agency and providing proof that you need it for a foreign visa.
3. Follow the government’s photo requirements.
You will also need a passport-sized picture of your child. Don’t worry about maximum cuteness; just be sure that the photo shows the right proportions of her precious little face and meets all of the necessary requirements. You can get passport pictures done at stores like CVS or Target, or just about any place with a photo lab. It’s preferable that the child be looking at the camera, but it’s not required. If you’re getting a passport for an infant, the Department of State website recommends laying the child on a white blanket or sheet, or cover a car seat with a white sheet and take a picture of her sitting, so that you don’t have to use your hand to support her head.
4. Take proper safety precautions.
Once you’re on the road, be sure that an adult is always holding any kids’ passports. Keep all passports in an RFID-blocking, convenient zippered carrier, like this organizer. If you prefer a smaller zip wallet that has room for the family passports (and the security of an RFID-blocker pocket), try this. Or if you’re looking for something a little more hidden, check out Eagle Creek’s undercover money belts and neck wallets.
Now that you know a bit about how to get a passport for a child, you’re ready to conquer the world! What's your favorite family-friendly, international destination?
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