How to Get a Passport for A Child


With the proper planning and an ounce of patience, the passport process for your child is not too difficult. However, we were not as prepared as we should have been so hopefully our story will help you plan better and show you how to get a passport for a child without a lot of hiccups along the way.

While we are normally very thorough, I must have been a bit rushed when we finally got down to applying for Eleanor's passport. I never imagined getting a passport for a child would be such an ordeal. After taking 2 half days off work, going to 4 different places for her photo, having her photo actually taken twice and calling numerous times to schedule an appointment at the passport office, we could finally say her paperwork has been submitted to the State Department.

Since we had such a difficult time with the passport process, I wanted to share some tips and tricks we learned to make it easier for you to get a passport for your child.

1. Start early.

We should have thought about getting her passport right away. We could have easily gotten it taken care of in that first month after she was born when we were both off work, since it was likely we would travel internationally sometime in the next 5 years. That’s how long passports are valid for minors. If we had started earlier we would not have been stressed about getting the documentation in quickly and it wouldn’t have mattered that we ran into a few hiccups. For reference the standard processing time for a first time passport is 4 – 6 weeks which left us with plenty of time, but we are hoping to obtain Global Entry passes too. It sounds like the scheduling process for that can be lengthy so we want to get the ball rolling ASAP, but we need Eleanor’s passport number. More on Global Entry to come.

2. Both parents are needed.

Unless you have full custody of your child, both parents will need to show up at the passport facility. If that’s not possible you will need to complete a form on the website and have it notarized. Although this is can be a pain, it makes sense. A check should be in place confirming that both parents approve of their child leaving the country.

3. Find your local facility.

There are a few passport facilities (local post offices) near us, in Boulder, that process passports. Unfortunately the one closest to our office and most convenient for Brett does not take walk-ins. You need to call and make an appointment. As of the time of this post I called 5 days ago and still have not heard back from them. Oh, and then there’s the hours of operation! It makes “banker’s hours” look like slave labor. Open only from 10:00 am to 3:15 pm with an hour lunch…seriously?!?! We ended up going to a less conveniently located facility that accepted walk-ins.

4. Get pictures taken ahead of time.

The reason we had to take time off a second day came down to the all important passport photos. The website said the passport facility had photo taking capabilities on-site. However, once we got there we found a sign informing us that their camera was broken. With only 15 minutes until closing, people in line directed us to FedEx Kinkos down the street. We whipped over there only to find out that they do not take infant passport photos. Erg! We ran out of time f on day one. 

Over the next few days, we went to Walgreens and they took her photo in all of 30 seconds with another 10 minutes to process. Woot! But, we were not in the clear yet. When we returned to the post office, we discovered that they had printed the photo too small and her face did not take up the necessary space within the dotted lines on the measuring guide. Oh brother! Off to a different Walgreens. Thankfully they were able to retake her photo and print it up in 5 minutes without charging us. Yay! Finally something went right.

5. Have all of your paperwork in order.

Finally, make sure you have all of your paperwork in order. You will need:

  • A completed application (not signed). For all of you moms, make sure to use your maiden name on the form as that is what is listed on your child’s birth certificate. If you make a mistake and use your married name like I did, you can just cross it out. You will be instructed to sign the form in front of the agent so wait until you get there to do that.
  • Evidence of US citizenship. This is usually an original copy of your child’s birth certificate.
  • Proof of Parental Consent. As long as the birth certificate names both parents you are covered.
  • Parental Appearance. Both parents need to be there when the application is turned in. See point 2 if both parents cannot be there.
  • Photo Identification. This is for the parents as your child will not have any identification. All you need (and what they actually prefer) is a valid driver’s license for each parent. They will take a photo copy and submit it with the application.

Sounds simple enough, right? And it should be. We are usually very organized when it comes to this stuff so the difficulty was unexpected. Hopefully your attempt to get a passport for your child will be much smoother than ours.

Any tips I missed? I’d love to hear about your experiences with getting passports for your children and any other advice that might be helpful to other parents.