Obtaining A Passport For A Minor (U.S. Citizen)

Do babies and toddlers need a passport? Any United States citizen, no matter what age, traveling outside of the United States requires a passport to enter or leave foreign countries (at time of publishing, a birth certificate alone will suffice so long as you are traveling by land or sea from a contiguous territory i.e. driving to Canada or taking a cruise through the Caribbean. (See details here).

Applying for a passport for a child can seem rather complicated; although as long as you are organized about it, the process will go smoothly–and its very rewarding. There’s a thrill in doing so, looking forward to the wonderful adventures to come. Beyond the obvious benefits of obtaining a passport for your child, seeing the physical passport with your son or daughter’s cute face inside will melt your heart.

Below is a step by step description of everything that  you will need to do. I went through the process immediately after my son’s birth, as we were traveling internationally before his 2nd month. I had to expedite service on both the birth certificate and passport. We obtained a passport in time without a hitch. Here is how:

Passport Application
You must fill out Passport Application Form DS11. You may download it in advance or obtain it from the passport office. Do not sign the application until you are asked to do so in the presence of an Acceptance Agent.

Social Security Card
The passport application requires a Social Security Number. We were allowed to leave this blank because it can take a few months to obtain a Social Security card for a newborn. If you have one, do enter this information and bring your child’s Social Security card (and a photo copy) with you to the passport office. If you don’t have one, call the specific passport office you will be visiting in advance to be certain they will accept your application without one.

Birth Certificate
If you plan to travel within the first few months after a child is born, it is wise to put a rush on their birth certificate. Speak to the staff at the hospital or to your midwife (for a home birth) about how to do so. Once your birth certificate is filed and you are awaiting your copy, it is important to call the Registrar of Vital Statistics (the office that issues birth certificates) and additionally let them know that you will need to expedite the issuance of the birth certificate. In the state in which we live, Louisiana, the Registrar of Vital Statistics is not required to rush birth certificates. This is important to keep in mind when calling their office. They are doing you a favor. Be polite and express gratitude. Your manners may make all the difference in getting that birth certificate issued in time. We were able to obtain ours within two and a half weeks. I made a note of the person I spoke to at the registar and called once a week (and I stress, VERY politely) to check on the status. When it was ready, we went to the office to pick it up in person. You will need to bring both the original birth certificate and a photo copy of it to the Passport agency when you apply. A hospital will issue you a document entitled: Proof Of Live Birth (or sometimes a Certificate of Birth Registration). Hold onto this, because if anything goes awry in obtaining the official birth certificate copy, you may be able to finagle a passport with this document. It is up to the discretion of the Acceptance Agent. Official rules dictate that the applicant must have an official birth certificate with a State seal.

Two identical photos must be submitted along with your application. I thought shooting my son’s passport photos was a lot of fun. I laid him on his back on a solid white sheet and snapped away. It took a good many shots to get one that qualified and to be honest, I couldn’t be too picky about how cute he looked. I just had to go with the one that fit the guidelines. Its tricky to get a shot of a newborn looking straight ahead with their eyes open, properly exposed, without shadows and with a “normal” expression on his face. If your child is mature enough to pose for a photo, you may decide to have the photos taken anywhere that offers passport quality photos (many post offices and most CVS and Walgreens locations offer this service. Call in advance.) For an infant though, this is better handled at home. Below are the official pasport photo guidelines quoted from the Department of State:

Your Photographs Must Be:

  • Identical
  • In color
  • 2 x 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 except religious attire that is worn daily
    • Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline
    • If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture
    • Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)


Make Your Own Copies
It is clearly stated on the website of the Department of State that applicants are required to bring not only original documents, but photo copies as well. These offices can be really busy and the officers don’t want to take on the extra chore of being your secretary in addition to everything else they must do. Please remember to make your own photocopies in advance and bring them with you, along with the original documents, to the passport Office. Have both originals and copies of:

  • Applicant’s (Child’s) Birth Certificate
  • Social Security Card
  • Mother’s photo ID (front and back)
  • Father’s Photo ID (front and back)
  • Any other additional documents needed for special circumstances (sole custody, Proof of Live Birth, etc.)

Details regarding the nature of the required photocopies are as follows (quoted from the Department of State)

  • Photocopy must be on plain white, 8 1/2 x 11″ standard paper stock, showing the front and the back of your ID
  • Photocopy mustcontain images on only one-side of each page submitted.
    • If copies cannot be made on the same side of one page, you may present two separate pages; one displaying the front of the ID and the second displaying the back of the ID.
  • The paper should be free of other images and/or markings.
  • The 8 1/2 x 11″ paper size cannot be substituted with a larger or smaller size paper, even if the alternative folds down to the 8 1/2 x 11″ size.
  • You may enlarge the image of your ID on the 8 1/2 x 11″ page, but you may not decrease the size of the image.

Minors Must Apply In Person
Don’t leave that baby at home! He or she must be present at the time of application. They need to take an oath! That seems very silly; but yes, an oath is is taken when anyone applies for a passport (in the case of a baby or toddler who can’t yet speak, it is read and the parents can swear to the oath on his or her behalf; but the person applying must be present for this oath). We got a big kick out of taking that oath and holding our son above the counter to face the Department of State officer. He got a kick out of it too. To find a Passport Acceptance Facility near you, please follow this link.

Both Parents
By law, both parents must be present at the time of application, along with the applicant.  If only one parent has sole legal custody of the minor, then they must provide proof of this, such as: being the only parent named on the child’s birth certificate or an official court order granting sole custody to that parent (original document and photo copy)

Application Fees
Its $80 for a passport and there is a $25 processing fee. If you need expedited service, there is an additional $60 fee for that. They can even mail the passport to you using overnight service for $12.72.

Final Checklist
Here’s a final checklist of everything you will want to have with you at the Passport Office.

  • Passport Application Form DS11
  • Birth Certificate
  • Photo copy of birth certificate
  • Social Security Card
  • Photo copy of SSC
  • Mother’s Photo Identification (passport or State ID (must be from the state in which you are applying)
  • Photo copy of Mother’s Photo ID
  • Father’s Photo Identification (passport or State ID (must be from the state in which you are applying)
  • Photo Copy of Father’s ID
  • Application Fees (credit card, money order or personal check made out to the Department Of State)
  • Child Applicant must be present
  • Both parents must be present

Processing Times
It takes about 4-6 weeks to receive a passport from the date of application. This can be expedited for an additional $60 (see above). If you are using the expedited service, you must prove that you ar flying within two weeks by providing your airline tickets or an itinerary issued by the airline or travel agent (a print out of an Expedia reservation, for instance, is fine). If you want to expedite, you must call the office in advance to make an appointment. The nationwide number to call is: (877) 487-2778. We were lucky that our local Passport Office wasn’t too busy at the time we applied. They were able to issue us a passport the very next day.

You can check the status of your passport online here.

Bon Voyage!

16 Responses to Obtaining A Passport For A Minor (U.S. Citizen)

  1. Kortney says:

    Fabulous post.

  2. michelle says:

    This is great! Planning to take our (unborn) son out of the country when he is 5 months old. Thanks for posting it in plain English, step by step!

    • future-mom says:

      Thank you! I couldn’t find anything especially helpful when we were planning our trip; so took some care in writing this. I’m working on a long post about the rest of it: packing, getting through security, what to bring, what not to bring, etc. We just got back from Europe, so getting my head together to finish it.

      Have a great time when you go. And a a safe and beautiful delivery to you as well!

      • Bethany says:

        Please do write that other post! It would be so incredibly helpful.🙂

        (This post is awesome, btw! I had missed that tidbit of info about bringing photocopies when looking at other sites, so I’m really glad I found your post)

      • future-mom says:

        Thank you, Bethany! Its a monster of a post. Working on it now.

  3. roglod says:

    THANK YOU so much! so kind of you!

  4. roglod says:

    just a quick question- i am also in LA and the nearest facility for applying for the passport is the main post office…do you take an oath there? i gave birth last week and called the vital statistics office today but they havent received it yet (from the hospital), do you think i should keep calling them everyday? thank you!

    • future-mom says:

      Yes, you need to bring the baby no matter what passport office you go to, post offices included. I would check in with vital statistics again, but try to be polite and not annoy them! Perhaps ask their advice on the matter when you call.
      Happy travels and congrats again!

  5. thanks for your helpful blog post🙂

  6. Gopalakrishnan Arthanari says:

    Nicely composed post. Helped a lot to plan and to ensure nothing is missed.
    But, there is one point missed in the Final checklist. Its the 2 identical photographs for the child(minor). Please include this in the post if you can.

  7. Rebecca says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post such a simple, step-by-step set of instructions. We are planning to take our six month old daughter on a cruise this time, but who-knows-where after that, to ensure that she appreciates the world around her. Your post was invaluable!

    • future-mom says:

      Sounds like fun! I was taken on a cruise as baby and my family loves to recall that we ran out of diapers before the cruise was over and I wore cloth dinner napkins😉

  8. daddy_marvin says:

    Very good post Future-Mom.

    Our son had his first international travel when he was 10 months old and that was the only time he had used his passport. His passport photo was taken when he was 6 months old. We are planning to travel again and he is already 3 years old. Not much of appearance difference between back when he was infant and now that he is a toddler. Will this cause a problem or do I need to renew his passport to update his photo?


  9. future-mom says:

    I would call your pasport office and check. From what I understand, they are good for five years. My son doesn’t look anything like his baby photo either though; so if they’ll let me get a new one I might because better safe than sorry!

  10. visu says:

    your information was very very useful….we are planning for our newborn baby passport and we need it as soon as possible..
    thank you once again…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: