How to Get a U.S. Passport for Your Baby [Step-By-Step]

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As a new parent, you are constantly bombarded with information, tips, tricks, and the need for new knowledge that you never thought you would need to know.

If you aren’t mentally exhausted trying to keep up how many DCPD (Diaper Changes Per Day) is normal and why this new toy/stroller/car seat is so much better than the one you just had express shipped from Amazon — are you even really a parent? I kid.

What I am trying to convey is that even though you are constantly learning and simultaneously trying to keep a tiny human fed and clean, you can overlook some basic details.

For the purpose of this article we are going to focus on that little detail that, yes, if you want to take a person (regardless of their age) to a different country, they will need to have a passport!

Just the thought of combining an infant and filling out the paperwork can be overwhelming, so that is why we broke it down for you in plain English.

And when you finally have your baby’s first passport (it’s really not that hard, I promise!), be sure to read our post on The Pro’s and Con’s of Flying Business Class With a Baby!

Overview

Just like adults, children traveling to a foreign country will need a passport to leave the country.

Since this will be (likely) be the baby’s U.S. first passport, and the fact that they are under 16 years old, the application will need to be completed in person with both parents present. If both parents cannot be present, there are alternative options, which we will touch on below. 

passport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

While the thought of passport paperwork may seem tedious, the process is pretty straightforward and, to be honest, probably pretty easy compared to other things new parents are dealing with. As long as you can follow instructions, you will be fine.

The hardest part for my wife and me was finding time during normal business hours to bring a baby with colic somewhere without messing up the nap schedule!

The only bad news (depending on your perspective) is that U.S. passports issued to travelers under the age of 16 are only valid for 5 years, compared to 10 years for those 16 or older.

So, depending on when you first apply for their passport, your child may need 4 passports by the time they are 16.

I mentioned perspective because my children have both U.S. and Brazilian passports, and their Brazilian passports need to be renewed more frequently.

For example, a passport for my 1-year-old is only valid for 1 year. A passport for a 2-year-old is only valid for 2 years, and so on until they reach 5.

So, my 5-year-old daughter was already on her third Brazilian passport before she had to renew her American one. It was inconvenient but makes sense when you see an immigration agent trying to match up a 4-month-old photo with a 4-year-old 😆.

Now, let’s dig into what is needed to get your baby a passport!

Hot Tip: TSA does not require an ID for passengers under 18 flying on domestic flights as long as they are not flying by themselves. For more information, check out our post about what ID and documents your child needs to fly.

Little girl with passports at BOS airport
Having multiple passports means lots of applications! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Step-By-Step Process

The U.S. Department of State actually does quite a nice job of clearly laying out what needs to be done to get your little one a passport.

But, like most government websites, it can be a little confusing to some, so let us break it down.

Fill Out Some Forms

This should come as no surprise, but you will need to fill out some forms. In this case, you will need to fill out the DS-11 form which is specific to first-time applicants and children.

You have the option of filling it out online or downloading the PDF and completing it manually. Just be sure not to sign it until you are instructed to in person.

Hot Tip: You can request a larger passport with 52 pages for no additional cost by checking the “52-page” box on the top of the form. 

Prove U.S. Citizenship

Only U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals are eligible to receive a United States passport and you will be required to prove your eligibility.

You must submit one of the following U.S. citizenship documents for your child and they must be an original or certified copy — photocopies and notarized copies will not be accepted.

  • Full-valid, undamaged U.S. passport (may be expired).
  • U.S. birth certificate that meets the following requirements:
    • Issued by the city, country, or state of birth.
    • Lists applicant’s full name, date of birth, and place of birth.
    • Lists the full name of the parent(s).
    • Has the date filed with the registrar’s office (must be within 1 year of birth).
    • Has the registrar’s signature.
    • Has the seal of the issuing authority.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth.
  • Certificate of Citizenship.

If you cannot submit one of those acceptable documents, the State Department has some secondary options for you, which you can find here.

Provide Photocopy of U.S. Citizenship Evidence

Once you have chosen which document you will be bringing to prove your child’s U.S. citizenship, you will also need to provide a photocopy of the document to submit with your DS-11 form.

Photocopies must be:

  • Legible.
  • On white, 8.5 x 11 inch standard paper.
  • Black and white.
  • Single-sided.

Bottom Line: Whichever document you choose, you will need to bring the original and a photocopy of it. 

Show Parental Relationship

You will also need to submit documentation that lists the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the child applying for the passport.

To prove this, you can submit one of the following documents:

  • U.S. birth certificate (you can use this for both parental relationship and U.S. citizenship requirements).
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth (you can use this for both parental relationship and U.S. citizenship requirements).
  • Foreign birth certificate.
  • Adoption decree.
  • Divorce/custody decree.

If you will be using the same document to prove citizenship and parental relationship, be sure to bring the original document or certified copy — not a photocopy.

Toddler in Airport with Passport
Emily really loves her passport! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Show Your ID

During the interview/application process, the parents and/or guardians will be required to present their personal ID to the acceptance agent.

Acceptable forms of a primary photo ID include:

  • In-state, fully valid driver’s license (if you present an out-of-state ID, you will be required to present an additional ID).
  • Valid or expired, undamaged, U.S. passport.
  • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship.
  • Government employee ID (city, country, state, or federal).
  • U.S. military ID or military dependent ID.
  • Valid foreign passport.
  • Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular Identification, commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant).
  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card, commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant).
  • Trusted Traveler IDs (including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards).
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards and Native American tribal photo IDs.
  • Other documents: in-state, fully valid learner’s permit with photo, in-state, fully valid non-driver ID with photo, and temporary driver’s license with photo. Note: You may be asked to present an additional ID when presenting one of these 3 documents. 

If you cannot provide one of the listed primary forms of ID, you may be able to present 2 forms of secondary ID. 

Acceptable forms of secondary ID include (submit at least 2 from the list below):

  • Out-of-state driver’s license or enhanced driver’s license with photo.
  • Learner’s or temporary driver’s permit (without a photo).
  • In-state, fully valid non-driver ID (without a photo).
  • Out-of-state, non-driver ID.
  • Temporary driver’s license (without a photo).
  • Social Security card.
  • Voter registration card.
  • Employee work ID.
  • Student ID.
  • School yearbook with an identifiable photograph.
  • Selective Service (draft) card.
  • Medicare or other health card.
  • Expired driver’s license.
  • Form DS-71, for an Identifying Witness (only available at your local Acceptable Facility or a Passport Agency).

Bring a Photocopy of Your ID

You will be required to bring the original ID you plan to present and a photocopy to submit with the application.

The photocopy should be of the front and back of each ID that you plan to present to the acceptance agent.

Requirements include:

  • Photocopy must be on plain white 8.5 x 11 inch standard paper.
  • Photocopy must not be double-sided.
  • Do not decrease the image size (although you may enlarge it).
Mom and Daughter walking in GIG airport-2
Mom and daughter at GIG. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Show Parental Consent

To issue a passport to a child, both parents/guardians must authorize it. The best way to do this is for both parents/guardians to go with the child in person to apply for the passport.

Of course, in many cases, this is easier said than done. Here are some examples of what to do if you can’t get both parents together in person.

When You Have Sole Legal Authority

When you have the sole legal authority of the child, you must submit evidence of this with the application.

Examples include:

  • Complete court order granting you sole legal custody of the child, such as a divorce decree or other custody order.
  • Complete court order specifically permitting you to apply for your child’s passport (photocopy is acceptable).
  • Certified copy of the child’s birth certificate listing you as the only parent.
  • Certified copy of an adoption decree listing you as the only parent.
  • Certified copy of the judicial declaration of incompetence of the parent that cannot appear in person.
  • Certified copy of the death certificate of the parent that cannot appear in person.

When 1 Parent Is Unable To Appear

If 1 parent or guardian cannot go with the child to apply for the passport, they can give permission by completing Form DS-3053 “Statement of Consent”.

You must submit the completed form with the child’s passport application. The parent that cannot go with the child must:

  • Sign and date Form DS-3053 in the presence of a certified notary public, and
  • Submit a photocopy of the front and backside of the ID that they present to the notary public with Form DS-3052.

Note that in certain countries, a DS-3053 must be notarized at a U.S. embassy or consulate and cannot be notarized by a local notary public.

For a current list of these countries, please visit the State Department website.

When You Cannot Locate the Other Parent

When you cannot locate the other parent or guardian you must submit Form DS-5525 “Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances”.

You will be asked to:

  • Complete the form with as much detail as possible.
  • Provide additional evidence. Examples include:
    • Custody order.
    • Incarceration order.
    • Restraining order to protect against international parental child abduction.
  • If the non-applying parent is deployed by the military, he or she should be able to provide a notarized Form DS-3053 in most cases. In the rare case that the non-applying parent cannot be contacted, you must provide either military orders with a Form DS-5525 showing the non-applying parent can’t be contacted because they are on a special assignment for more than 30 days outside of their duty station OR a signed statement from the non-applying parent’s commanding officer that they can’t be reached.

When Neither Parent Can Appear

When neither parent or guardian can appear, a third-party may apply for the child’s passport with a notarized statement from both parents/guardians giving the third-party permission to apply for the child.

Note that:

  • The statement must include a photocopy of the parent’s/guardian’s identification.
  • When the statement is from only 1 parent/guardian, the third party must present evidence of sole custody of the consenting parent/guardian.

Hot Tip: Written authorization from the parent that cannot appear in person must be less than 3 months old. 

Provide a Photo

Now the fun part — trying to get a decent passport photo of a young child or even a newborn!

You have been training for this with hundreds of Instagram photos of your little one sleeping or playing with their toys, now you have a real challenge… trying to get them to stay still, looking at the camera, with a solid white background behind them. Good luck!

Although some passport acceptance facilities offer photo services, you should bring your own just in case your little one decides to put up a fight at showtime.

Photo Requirements:

  • Color photo, taken within the last 6 months (preferably more recently for young children).
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm).
  • Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper.
  • Do not digitally change the photo or add filters.
  • The child is alone in the phone, looking forward (does not need to make eye contact with the camera).
  • Plain, white background.

Photo Tips for Infants and Newborns:

  • Lay the child on their back on a white blanket or sheet to ensure that their head is supported.
  • Have the child seated in a car seat covered in a white sheet or blanket.
  • Have proper lighting and make sure there are no shadows.

Calculate Fees

Although some of the best things in life are free, passports are not!

Currently, you should expect to spend at least $115 for a passport book ($80) and the acceptance fee ($35).

You can add a passport card, which is good for land and sea border crossings to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda for an additional $15.

Payment Methods

Since the application fee and acceptance fee are separate, they also have different payment options.

Application Fee Payment Methods:

  • Check (personal, certified, cashier’s, traveler’s) and money orders payable to “U.S. Department of State.”
  • Credit and debit card payments CANNOT be accepted.

$35 Execution (Acceptance) Fee, Paid Separately:

  • Money orders at all locations, payable as instructed by the facility.
  • Personal checks and cash (exact change only) at some locations.
  • Credit cards at U.S. postal facilities and some other locations. Note: The facility may add a surcharge to cover the cost of the credit card payment.

Please verify payment methods with the acceptance facility ahead of time.

Hot Tip: If you think you may want a passport card at some point, request it at the same time as your passport to avoid an additional $35 acceptance fee. 

passport application
Passport application process. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Submit Your Completed Application

Finally! Now that all of the paperwork is complete, you can actually apply!

If you are applying for your child’s passport from inside the United States, you will need to bring the completed application, citizenship evidence, photocopy of ID, photo, and fees, in-person to a passport acceptance facility.

You can search for a passport acceptance facility near you here.

If you are applying for your child’s passport from abroad, the process is very similar but may vary by country. Contact your U.S. Embassy and Consulate for specific instructions.

Hot Tip: Did you just realize that you need a passport for your child for an upcoming trip and can’t wait the average 6-8 weeks? You may be eligible for “Get A Passport In A Hurry” which can greatly reduce your wait time!

Track Your Application Status

Once your application is submitted it can take between 6-8 weeks before it is approved and delivered to you under normal circumstances.

You can track the status of the application online or by phone starting about a week after you submitted your application.

To track your application by phone, call 877-487-2778 with the following information:

  • Last name (include suffixes and hyphens as appropriate).
  • Date of birth (MM/DD/YYYY).
  • Last four digits of the social security number.

To track your application online simply access the Online Passport Status System. You can even sign up for automatic email updates!

Little girl on Jetkids Bedbox in airport-2
Now that your kid has a passport, go travel! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Final Thoughts

Yes, this seems like a lot of work. But once you break it all down, it is just 1 form and some basic information that you probably already have laying around your house.

Assuming you follow all of the instructions, your little traveler should have his or her passport in no time!

Getting your child a passport is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child because it opens the world to them.

And I know, from experience, that traveling the world with my children has become one of my greatest pleasures. I hope it will become one of yours, too!


FAQ

Can babies travel without a passport?

Every citizen of the United States, independent of age (even newborn infants), is required to have a valid passport when traveling outside the United States. There is an exception for travel on a closed-loop cruise or travel by land to Canada.

How long does it take to get a passport for a baby?

The entire processing time for applying for a passport for a newborn or child can take 6 to 8 weeks. However, expedited processing is available for an additional fee.

Do both parents have to be present to get a passport for a child?

Parents or guardians must appear with the child when applying for a passport and must sign the DS-11 form in front of the passport agent. If both parents/guardians are available, both must appear, or one may appear and bring a signed the documentation listed in this article. 

What age can a baby get a passport?

Children of any age can get a passport. All passport applicants under 16 must apply in person using Form DS-11. You can not use Form DS-82 to renew your passport. Please note: passports for children under 16 are only valid for 5 years.

Can I mail my child's passport application or apply online?

No, children applicants under 16 are not eligible to mail in their passport applications. Additionally, the Department of State does not currently have the option to submit passport applications online.

Do I need to make an appointment to apply for a passport?

Some acceptance facilities require appointments and others do not. We recommend calling the acceptance facility ahead of time to verify their hours, acceptable forms of payment, and appointment requirements.

How much does a U.S. passport cost?

The cost of your U.S. passport will depend on the type of passport you request and how quickly you need it. See Passport Fees for more information on the cost of a U.S. passport book or a U.S. passport card and all associated services.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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