Whether you’re getting a passport for a baby or an older child, there are certain things you’re going to need to have with you when you go to the office, so it’s best to be prepared. You don’t want to make the appointment to get your child’s passport only to find out you don’t have what you need.
From documents that show the legal name of your child to whether or not both parents need to go to the appointment, the following are four important things to know before you get your child’s first passport.
1. Book vs. Card?
You’ll first need to decide if you prefer to get your child a passport book or a card. A passport card is valid only for certain land or sea crossings. There are a lot of limitations, and you can’t use a passport card for international air travel. Most of the time, parents will get a passport card if they’re planning on going on a cruise, and the cards will provide entry into Canada, as well as Bermuda, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
For most families, going ahead and getting a book is preferable.
2. What To Bring With You
You’ll have to gather quite a few things for your child’s application. These include:
- Form DS-11: This form is what lets you start the process of applying for an application. The form is required for children under the age of 16 and for first-time applicants for a passport.
- Proof of citizenship: You have to show documentation that proves your child is a U.S. citizen. The most common way to do this is to submit a physical copy of your child’s birth certificate with their name. After you determine the citizenship evidence you’re going to submit, you need a photocopy of it. The original is going to be returned to you, but the U.S. State Department needs a copy too.
- Proof of parental relationship: A birth certificate can be used as proof of parental relationship as well as proof of citizenship. You could also use a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or a foreign birth certificate. Also acceptable is a divorce or custody decree or adoption decree. The document needs to list the legal names of the parents of the child or the legal guardians.
- Social Security number: You’ll have to provide the Social Security number for your child. If you’re trying to get a passport for a newborn and you haven’t gotten their Social Security card yet, you’ll have to submit a signed statement that will have particular phrasing as directed by the State Department.
- ID document: The parents or guardians who are applying for a passport for a child have to show a physical photo ID issued by the government and a front and back photocopy. You can use your own passport, your driver’s license, a Certificate of Naturalization, or one of many other options recommended by the State Department.
3. Making An Appointment
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary documentation, you can schedule an appointment. You have to choose an authorized facility. Your child has to be present, and both parents or guardians have to go to the appointment, which is called two-parent consent.
There are a few situations where both parents may not need to be present.
If the child is in your sole custody and you’re the only one with legal authority, both parents may not need to be there. You will have to show evidence that indicates you are the only parent or guardian. This evidence might be your divorce decree, a court order, or an adoption decree listing you as the only parent.
Another extenuating circumstance is if one parent or guardian isn’t available. If they’re not available, they have to sign and have notarized a consent using form DS-3053. If the other parent is deceased, a death certificate is needed. If you can’t find the other parent or guardian, you fill out Form DS-5255 and submit any additional evidence you have.
4. Taking a Photo
You’ll need a photo of your child to go with the application. The photo requirements are the same for children and adults, with some exceptions for infants. The application will need to include a high-resolution photo that’s 2×2 inches and has a plain white background.
You can go to drugstores or shipping stores and pay to have the photo taken.
If you have a young child, taking the photo at home may be easiest. The photo will need to have the child’s face fully visible, and both eyes need to be open.
Passports can take up to 11 weeks, according to the U.S. Department of State, and processing time doesn’t include shipping time, so keep this in mind and get started early.