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—yes, even the tiniest of babies needs a passport! Read on for key tips on passport requirements for kids, and how you can keep your kid’s passport safe when you travel.
1. Know the rules.
You may be thinking: But really, do babies need a passport? What about my one-year old? Yes, yes, and yes to any other child of any age. Every child traveling outside the country needs valid passport identification, even if that’s a quick trip across the border into Mexico or Canada.
Now, that said, whether you need a passport for your kid or a passport card depends on your planned travel. If you’re crossing a land border—Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean, Bermuda—then a passport card suffices and this can be a more economical option since passport cards are more affordable. If you go this route though, understand that this is not actually a passport for your kids—you cannot use it for international air travel, or for land border entry into Europe or other countries (so you can’t cruise across the Atlantic with your kids and enter an international port). For this reason, it may make sense to either secure both at the same time, or to simply buy a for a passport for your kids since that will work in every situation where a passport card works (and the inverse is not true).
2. 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 and passport cards 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 and you don’t want any hold-ups when you’re trying to fly through TSA!
2. Review the passport requirements for children..
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 to meet the strict passport requirements for children.
● 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.
● All parents will also need your child’s birth certificate.
● All documents must be originals; copies are not accepted.
Once you complete the government application and meet all of the strict requirements, you’ll receive the passport in the mail, usually within six weeks. If you need your kid’s 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 expedited for a foreign visa.
3. Follow the government’s photo requirements for children.
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 photo 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, especially for babies. 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 with your passports.
Once you’re on the road, be sure that an adult is always holding any kids’ passports and learn exactly how to properly pack a passport. The short of it is: Keep all passports in an RFID-blocking, convenient zippered carrier. If you prefer a smaller zip wallet that has room for the family passports (and the security of an RFID-blocker pocket), try an RFID blocking neck wallet.. If you’re looking for something convenient for travel days, consider a waist pack—the Wayfinder Waist Pack is a perfect option for parents on the go who want to effectively keep all their family’s valuables accessible and safe..
Now that you know a bit about how to get a passport for a child, you’re ready to conquer the world! Get packing and show your kids how to venture into the unknown.
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Why You Should Apply for Global Entry Right Now
How to Properly Pack Your Passport
By Shannon O'Donnell on May 13, 2020
Shannon is a long-term traveler and advocate for slow travel that supports grassroots tourism. Named National Geographic’s Traveler of the Year for her work in responsible tourism, she is an acclaimed speaker and voice for the benefits of world travel .