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Applying For or Renewing Passports for Kids

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After rising early on Christmas Day 2011 for a fun-filled morning of family time (i.e. opening presents), we ate Christmas Dinner with extended family and finished packing for our much-anticipated trip to Grand Cayman the following day. We packed up the suitcases with bathing suits and sunscreen and then went to get the passports out of the safe. When we took a quick glance at the passports to look at all the old pictures we were shocked to realize that the kids’ passports had expired that month. How could this be? My sweet girl was only 5 years old and she already had an expired passport? After desperate calls to TSA and the airline, we found out there was no possible way to get new passports, and we sadly called off the trip and unpacked the suitcases.

With this in mind I want to share a few reminders for those with kids who are considering international travel.

When Do You Need a Passport for Your Child?

First, children of all ages (even infants) must have a passport to fly to another country. If you are entering another country from land or sea the requirements may be different and a U.S. birth certificate may suffice. However, even if a cruise line says you only need a birth certificate to travel on the cruise ship you will still need a passport to enter other countries when you are in port. If you are traveling by car or boat, check on the requirements of that individual country.

Second, children’s passports expire after FIVE years. This is different than adult passports which last for 10 years.

Third, it is suggested for most countries that you travel with a passport that does not expire within six months.

So, if you are getting a new passport for your child or have a passport that is around 4 years old, here are the steps you will take. Please note that renewing a child’s passport is the same process as getting one for the first time. You CANNOT renew passports for kids by mail!

Applying For or Renewing a Child’s Passport

Whether you are applying for the first time or renewing a child’s passport, you will need to download and complete form DS-11 “Application for a U.S. Passport.” This can be found at this website. Bring this completed form with you to your local passport center.

You will also need to submit evidence that the child is a U.S. citizen and approved evidence is listed on the same website. Examples are an expired passport or original birth certificate. If you bring the old passport however, you must still bring the child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate proves the relationship between child and parents. We learned this the hard way and had to make a return trip to the passport center!

Also, when applying for a passport both parents need to be present and show current identification. If one parent is not able to be there you will need to complete and have notarized form DS-3053. Finally, if your passport center does not take passport photos you will also need to bring two 2×2” photos. On the website it states that the passport agencies are currently accepting credit cards, checks and money orders but not cash, but it’s always worth checking.  At the time we had our passports renewed this year, routine processing times were four to six weeks and we received ours within four weeks.

Our family learned a hard lesson about expired passports and with these reminders I hope to help others avoid missing a special trip!

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Susan is an enthusiastic traveler and mom to a 11 year-old boy and eight year-old girl. Originally from North Carolina, Susan is a Southerner at heart, although…

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