There are lots of reasons to get your baby a passport that have nothing to do with, say, running from the law. Family travel has a lot of great benefits. Maybe you decide to apply for a passport for your little one just in case that super great deal to Tahiti comes along, or your grandparents live overseas and are demanding to finally meet the baby, or you are just one of those people who likes to take advantage of the free lap infant rule. Regardless, although you may have experience getting a passport for yourself, getting a passport for your baby is a whole new ball game.
The U.S. Department of State tries to explain the process as easily as possible on their website. However, we all know that when it comes to bureaucratic systems, nothing is easy.
First things first. Get the baby’s passport photos. You can technically do this yourself within the State Department’s parameters, but I could never get the head the perfect size in the picture. If you’re a Costco member, that’s the cheapest place to go; some post offices will also do passport photos. I want to be clear: this will not be easy. For a small infant who can’t yet hold their head up, you will have to sort of stand out of the way while holding your child up and supporting their head with your hands. This may require four hands, and the kid will look pretty funny. However, I suspect it might actually be easier at this stage than later when they may be crying, running away, or covering their face with their hands, none of which result in an acceptable photo for the government. If they do any of those things, you will have to come back the next day and try again with more candy on hand. Yes, the photo girl at Costco knows us well by now, but so does the free cookie bakery lady at Safeway…isn’t that just parenthood?
Next, fill out the form. That part’s pretty self-explanatory. You don’t have to stick the photo on the form yourself; someone will help you do that when you apply in person for the passport.
Then you have to gather proof of citizenship and parenthood. There’s a list of various possibilities on the Department of State’s website, but for most people this means a birth certificate. You need an original birth certificate and a copy to submit. You do have to send in the original, but they send it back with the passport.
You will have to then show up in person at a passport acceptance facility. In our area, this is the county auditor’s office or a few very specific post offices. You can search for the place you have to show up on the State Department’s website. Some require appointments, but most involve taking a number and waiting in line forever. Bring food and stuff to entertain small children. This is bureaucracy at its best or worst, depending on your perspective.
Before you get too excited and head over to your nearest passport acceptance facility, make sure you have all of the following with you:
- The child in question
- Both parents, WITH PICTURE ID (e.g. drivers licenses). You also need photocopies of the ID, but usually the acceptance facility will take the photocopies for you
- The birth certificate or other proof of citizenship and parenthood
- The passport photos
- Checks or money orders for the appropriate fees
And then you’re done. Well, for five years. A child’s passport is good for five years, which means that funny looking newborn photo will still be in your kid’s passport when he is four, and when he starts yelling, “Hey mom, that picture is NOT ME!” in front of the immigration guy at the airport you will question the wisdom of even that length of time.
If you have multiple children who are not on the same passport renewal schedule, you will become very familiar with this process. Just remember: you must repeat this process — with both parents and the child present — every time you renew your kid’s passport.