Passport

How to Get a Passport for your Child

Getting a passport was something I avoided for a long time, because I am a procrastinator. Also, before the late 2000s, Americans didn’t need to them to visit Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean.  I visited Grand Cayman without a passport in 2004. Passports are required to go outside the US nowadays. So, if you and your kids don’t have one, today is a great day to get yours! 

One reason to get a passport

Why get a passport? Here’s one reason: this beautiful beach is in Jamaica!

Here are step-by-step instructions for Americans to applying for a passport for your child or children. Both parents have to be there in person. If this isn’t possible, there are additional forms to fill out. We were able to go on a Saturday morning in order to avoid additional paperwork.

Getting a passport for your child

This was our process for children under 16, who haven’t had a passport or passport card before.

  1. The first thing I did was to take them to a local place to get their passport photos. Start your search at CVS or Walgreens and go from there. It took us barely 10 minutes and that included waiting for their pictures to print.
  2. Make an appointment with your most conveniently located post office that does passport services. Visit the usps.com site for local information.
  3. Measure you child(ren). You will need to know their height for the form.
  4. Fill out the form in advance of your appointment. Have their SSN ready for reference.
  5. Take the completed form, pictures, their birth certificate, and your ID. Remember, if two parents are listed on the child’s birth certificate, both parents must be at this appointment. If that isn’t possible, additional forms will have to be filled out. They also made the copies of our IDs for us (and it isn’t clear if they will do that or not).
  6. Your children must be with you, as the post office employee does compare them to their pictures.
  7. Bring your checkbook, as a large portion of the fee isn’t payable by credit card. We had to write separate checks for each child. Also, part of the fee is paid separately. In our case of 2016 prices, it cost $95 by check and $25 payable by credit, debit, cash (whatever your post office takes).

That’s it!

It is easy and only a minor time inconvenience! Keep in mind that passports for children are only valid for 5 years. It’s important to strike a good balance between leaving enough time for the passport to show up before a scheduled trip and getting a passport for “eventually.” Regular processing time takes anywhere between 2-10 weeks. At the appointment, we were told it would be 4-6 weeks and I did see that time frame given on one section of the website. Of course, I also saw 2-10 weeks on one of the websites, so I wanted you to be aware!

Expedited service takes 3 weeks (plus, an additional $60 as of August 2016).

Quick note

There are post offices that will take walk-ins for passports. Ours requires appointments for a child’s passport, though it seemed pretty informal once we arrived. The nice thing about having the appointment was not having to wait in line. That’s invaluable with young children.

Helpful websites:
Official information for children under 16
United States Postal Service

Cliff diver

Cliff diver in Jamaica.

Why now?

We don’t have an international trip currently scheduled. Why did I choose now? I recently had to turn down an opportunity to visit Europe with a good friend and her daughter because I can’t guarantee the passports will come in time. Also, we are in the planning stages for some international travel plans and I don’t want to put them at risk of disruption. As I mentioned, I do procrastinate sometimes!

The passport card will also be acceptable ID for the kids to travel domestically. I’m seizing the day! The time is now! Go forth and travel!

When did you get your first passport? When did your children receive their first? If you don’t currently have one, what’s stopping you?

Disclaimer

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10 thoughts on “How to Get a Passport for your Child

  1. Simone says:

    I got my first passport for international travel in 2006 in Germany. The US had just started requiring the biometric passport for entering the country. The application requirements are a little more extensive because of that. The costs are about the same.
    We applied for my daughter’s American passport when she was 2 weeks old. I think it took only 4 weeks to arrive in the mail.
    We applied for her German passport when she was 10 months old. It took even less than 4 weeks to arrive.
    My husband got his first passport when he was young as well.
    It is always good to have one. Especially when last minute travels are something you want to do.

    • Natalie says:

      I am pretty sure my passport came really quickly when I applied, a few years ago. I had one when I was pretty young also, but it was long expired.

      No more missing trips due to no passports for us!

  2. Tammyonthemove says:

    Seems quite straight forward shame they are only valid for 5 years though. Could become quite expensive. I think in Europe children’s passports are valid for 18 years-then they have to apply for adult passports.

    • Natalie says:

      It does, though I suppose a 5 year old and an infant look dramatically different. They are a little bit cheaper, at least. You’re right, it could become quite expensive for those who travel regularly!

  3. Danielle says:

    I myself was 5 when I got my first passport. Wow, that was a long time ago. My son has never had one. Thank you for all the info. I would have never thought to measure my child before filling out the application and I believe everyone will need passports or passport card even for domestic travel.

    • Natalie says:

      Yes, I didn’t realize how much more travel I could’ve done back then without getting a passport. You did have to travel with your birth certificate, though. Passports are probably a safer option!

      Now, we have to have passports to go everywhere.

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