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!
Here are step-by-step instructions for Americans to apply 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 together on a Saturday morning in order to avoid additional paperwork. Most post offices that do passport applications should have some flexibility so both parents can attend.
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Getting a passport for your child
This was our process for children under 16, who haven’t had a passport or passport card before.
- 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.
- Make an appointment with your most conveniently located post office that does passport services. Visit the usps.com site for local information.
- Measure you child(ren). You will need to know their height for the form.
- Fill out the form in advance of your appointment. Have their SSN ready for reference.
- 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 always do that or not).
- Your children must be with you, as the post office employee does compare them to their pictures.
- 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, we bought both the book and card for $95 by check and $25 payable by credit, debit, cash (whatever your post office takes).
January, 2018 update: Prices for 2018 are still the same. Buying the passport book and passport card at the same time saves you about $25. We prefer to have both. Children 16 and over will pay the same rate as adults, which is $140 plus the $25 fee. Please see the US travel official website for instructions for children and adults ages 16 and up.
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 want you to be aware that it can take awhile!
Expedited service takes 3 weeks and additional $60. Overnight service will run you $15.89 more (the prices are accurate as of January 2018).
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.
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?