What You Need to Know Before Getting a Passport for Kids

Having a passport is essential when traveling abroad. If you travel with children, each child must have their own passport. While the application form is the same, there are specific guidelines for kids when applying for a U.S. passport. 

We have traveled a lot as a family, but we had just taken our boys on an international trip last year. We booked our first family cruise and realized we needed a U.S. passport for our kids. Initially, we were overwhelmed by the passport application process, but I want to reassure you that it’s easier than it seems to apply for your child’s passport.

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passport for kids

How to Apply for a Passport for Kids

Getting a passport for your child may seem daunting, but this step-by-step guide will simplify the application process and hopefully answer any questions you may have. The process was more straightforward than I expected, especially since we gathered all our documents before we started. If you’re considering applying for your child’s passport, follow the instructions below, which should be a breeze.

To apply for a child’s passport, you will need a completed DS-11 Form, proof of U.S. citizenship, proof of parent’s identity, a recent color photograph, proof of parental relationship, and approved payment methods for fees. Once you have completed the appropriate paperwork and gathered your documents, you will then make an appointment at your local passport facility. Once you complete the application process, you should receive your child’s passport within 12-18 weeks.

Application and Documents Needed for Passports for Kids

To apply for your child’s passport, you will fill out Form DS-11. You can find it on the official website of the U.S. Department of State. You can fill out a form online before printing it or print the blank form and fill it out by hand. I recommend you fill it out online to avoid errors or illegible handwriting. The entire process should only take about 5 minutes. Remember, you must sign the form in person at your passport appointment.

You will need proof of citizenship for both the parent and child. This can be a birth certificate or an expired passport for the child and a state-issued I.D. or passport for the adult. Make sure to make copies of everything and attach them to your application. 

How to Make an Appointment for Passports for Kids

Search online for an authorized acceptance facility to apply for a U.S. passport for kids. Passport facilities are usually located in post offices, local libraries, and government offices. On the U.S. Department of State’s website, you can find which facilities are closest to you, their hours, and if they take photos on-site.

Certain acceptance facilities require appointments, whereas others permit walk-ins. Verify their policies by calling or checking online. Due to high demand, I recommend scheduling your appointment as soon as possible. We opted to book our appointment at a local post office as the time and location were convenient.

What to Bring to Your Passport Appointment

  • Completed Passport Application – You must bring the filled-out and printed DS-11 form to your passport appointment. The application can be filled out online or by hand (using only black ink) and printed. 
  • Proof of Citizenship for Your Child – Bring your child’s original U.S. birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, consular report of birth abroad, or certification of birth. 
  • Copy of Proof of Citizenship for Your Child – Bring a black-and-white copy of your child’s citizenship. The copy should be printed on an 81/2″ X 11″ single-sided sheet of paper. Be sure to copy both sides of your citizenship proof onto separate papers.
  • Proof of Parental Relationship – You must bring proof of parental relationship in the form of a U.S. birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad or certification of birth, foreign birth certificate, adoption decree, or divorce/custody decree.
  • Both Parents’ Valid Identification—Both parents must bring a valid form of identification. This can be an in-state driver’s license, valid or expired U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization or citizenship, or governmental employee ID. Visit Travel.State.Gov for a complete list of approved photo identifications.
  • Copy of Your Identification – Bring a black-and-white copy of your valid identification.
  • Approved Passport Photo of Your Child – Bring a recent photo of your child that meets the requirements below.
  • Appropriate Form of Payment – To apply for a passport, you must pay a fee for the application and execution. The passport application fee must be paid by check, while the execution fee can usually be paid using a credit card. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Passport for Kids

What are the Photo Requirements?

Passport photos have very specific requirements, so it is best to let the professionals handle them. The guidelines require the photo to have a white background, be 2×2 inches in size, and have a specific head placement in the image. Your passport photo should be taken and printed within six months of the application appointment. 

Getting your passport photo taken is a breeze with the numerous options available. You can visit places like Walgreens, CVS, or Costco, all of which offer this service. Many passport facilities also provide this service, but it’s best to check online beforehand. I find it’s easiest to get your photos taken at the passport facility to save time. 

How Much are Passports for Kids?

The application fee for a passport for kids varies depending on the child’s age. For children under 16, the passport book application fee is $100 due to its validity of only five years. For children aged 16 and up, the passport book fee is $130. Passport cards for children cost $15 and $30, respectively. You must also pay a $35 acceptance fee. This amount goes directly to the facility where you submit your application for your child’s passport.

The passport application fee can only be paid by personal check or money order. Additional fees apply for passport photos and expediting the passport process, which will be paid separately. Before your appointment, confirm payment methods at the facility, as they may vary. Credit cards may be accepted for specific fees in some places, while others may only accept checks.

Do All Minors Need Passports?

Yes. It’s mandatory for all children, regardless of their age, to have a passport for overseas travel. Children under 16 receive a passport valid for five years, while those who are 16 and 17 get one for ten years.

Can I Renew My Child’s Passport?

No. If you apply for a passport for kids under 16, you must do it in person, whether it’s their first time or a renewal. Unlike an adult passport, you cannot renew a child’s passport. Instead, you must complete a new application for them each time. You cannot use their old passport for identification or verification purposes like an adult passport. Once your child turns sixteen and applies for an adult passport, you can renew the passport by mail and avoid paying the $25 execution fee.

Do Both Parents Need to be Present at the Passport Appointment?

Yes, both parents and the child must attend the passport appointment if the child is under 16. However, there are a few exceptions. If one parent cannot attend, you must provide documentation as proof. The acceptable documents include death certificates, custody documents, birth certificates showing only one parent listed, adoption decrees, or form DS-3053 if one parent cannot attend. Generally, both parents must permit a child to apply for a passport, even if they are divorced and have custody issues.

How long does it take for kids to get their passports?

It generally takes 6 to 8 weeks for kids to receive a passport. You can check the status 7-10 days after you submit your application. An expedited passport for kids takes 2 to 3 weeks. I recommend applying for a passport as soon as possible, even if you don’t have immediate travel plans.


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