How to Get a U.S. Passport for Your Child


After spending countless hours researching and cobbling together your international family vacation itinerary – from pinpointing kid-friendly activities to booking flights and accommodations – the last thing you want to encounter is a snag at airport security. While getting a passport for your child may seem like an arduous task, it’s a critical step to cross off early so you can mitigate frustration later on.

To adequately prepare and know what to expect, read on for a step-by-step guide to getting passports for kids (including infants), along with other important information.

Do babies need passports?

Yes. Regardless of age, if you are traveling internationally, a passport is required.

What’s the difference between a passport book and a passport card?

Both passport books and cards are proof of your U.S. citizenship and identity. But passport cards, whether for a child or adult, are only valid for certain land and sea border crossings such as those you might make on a cruise, providing entry into Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Mexico. For international travel by air and to any other country, you’ll need a passport book.

How to get your child a passport book or passport card

Gather your application materials

  • Form DS-11: To start the passport application process, you’ll need to complete the DS-11, which is the required form for first-time passport applicants and for children younger than 16.
  • Proof of citizenship: You must submit documentation that shows your child is a U.S. citizen, such as an original copy or a certified physical copy of your child’s birth certificate – or one of the other documents outlined here. Once you’ve determined what citizenship evidence you’re submitting, be sure to make a clear photocopy of it; the original will be returned to you, but the U.S. Department of State needs a copy to keep too. Conveniently, a birth certificate also doubles as proof of parental relationship (the next requirement).
  • Proof of parental relationship: Aside from a U.S. birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, foreign birth certificate, adoption decree or divorce/custody decree are also acceptable as proof of parental relationship, since these documents list the names of parents or legal guardians.
  • Social Security number: In addition, you’ll need to supply your child’s Social Security number. If you’re obtaining a passport for a newborn whose Social Security card has not yet arrived, you will need to submit a signed statement with specific phrasing, explained here.
  • Identification document: The parents or guardians applying for a child’s passport must present a physical, government-issued photo ID, along with a photocopy of the front and back. You may choose your passport, an in-state driver’s license, a Certificate of Naturalization or one of the various other options that the State Department suggests.

Make a passport application appointment

After ensuring you have all necessary documentation, schedule an appointment at an authorized passport facility; you can search for locations in your area here. Your child must be present and accompanied by both parents or guardians to satisfy the two-parent consent, though some extenuating circumstances allow for exceptions, including the following scenarios:

The child is in your sole custody. If you alone have legal authority over your child, you must submit evidence that certifies you are the sole parent or guardian, such as a divorce decree, court order, death certificate, or a birth certificate or adoption decree listing you as the only parent. For more examples of acceptable documents, click here.

One parent or guardian is unavailable. If one of the parents or guardians is unable to attend the passport appointment, they must provide a signed and notarized statement of consent via a DS-3053 form. In the event they are deceased, a death certificate will be required. If you cannot locate or contact the other parent or guardian, you’ll need to fill out the DS-5255 form and submit additional evidence, such as an incarceration or restraining order.

The State Department requires this additional documentation to prevent international parental child abduction.

Get your child’s passport photo taken

In the meantime, you’ll need a passport photo of your child to submit with the application. The passport photo policies are the same for adults and kids (with certain exceptions for infants), so a child’s passport application must include a 2-by-2-inch, high-resolution photo with a plain white background. The photo should not be stapled to the application.

You can easily pay to get your kid’s passport photo taken at drugstores such as CVS and Walgreens or shipping stores such as UPS.

If you have an infant or toddler, it may be easiest to take their photo at home. You can place a white or off-white sheet over a car seat in which you’ll securely buckle your child – though removing said car seat from your vehicle is likely your best bet to avoid a glare or shadow in the photo. You can also place your child on a white or off-white sheet on the floor. If you have a sleepy baby, don’t worry: Photos with closed (or only slightly open) eyes are acceptable for infants. Ensure that no one else besides your child is in the picture.

When preparing for a photo of your child, you’ll also need to consider the following:

  • Hats: Per the U.S. Department of State, hats and head coverings are only permitted alongside a signed statement certifying them as “part of recognized, traditional religious attire that is customarily or required to be worn continuously in public or a signed doctor’s statement verifying the item is used daily for medical purposes.”
  • Glasses: Glasses and sunglasses are not permitted for passport photos. If your child wears glasses, they will need to briefly remove them – or you’ll need a doctor’s note to prove the glasses cannot be removed for medical reasons.
  • Clothing: It’s best to wear plain clothing. Anything that resembles a uniform is not permitted.
  • Jewelry: Jewelry is allowed, including facial piercings such as nose rings, provided they don’t hide the child’s face.
  • Facial expression: Your child will need to have a neutral facial expression or natural smile for the photo, with their face fully visible and both eyes open. Depending on their age, it might be helpful to have them practice in advance.

Make sure you follow photo guidelines precisely to ensure your application doesn’t get rejected and ultimately delay the passport process.

How long is a kid’s passport good for?

Passports for kids are only good for five years, as opposed to adult passports, which remain valid for 10 years. If the passport expires before the child’s 16th birthday, you must reapply for your kid’s passport in person, following the steps above. You cannot renew a child’s passport using the DS-82, however, as this form is only available to those aged 16 and older.

What is the cost of a kid’s passport?

As of 2022, a child’s passport book costs $135, which covers the fees for both the application and acceptance. Passport cards cost $50 total.

How long does it take to get a kid’s passport?

Getting a passport can take anywhere from eight to 11 weeks, per the U.S. Department of State. Note that processing time does not account for shipping time, which can vary. If you’re on a tight deadline ahead of a last-minute trip, expedited service is available for $60, reducing processing time to between five and seven weeks. It’s possible you will receive your passport sooner than expected, but don’t count on it.

If you need your kid’s passport within a few days due to a qualifying emergency, such as a death in the family, or within two weeks for urgent, nonemergency travel, you’ll need to make an appointment at a local passport agency.

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