When parents decide to apply for a passport for their kids, they need to realize it is a different process than the one they will experience when applying for their own. In the United States, a minor passport is issued to children under the age of 16, those above 16 years of age receive adult passports. When your child has a passport, not only are you providing them with an official form of government identification, you are opening the door for them to travel the world, experience new cultures, and take adventures to far away lands. Here’s how to apply for a passport for kids to make the process easy to navigate.
NOTE: As of July 2021, passport processing times are severely delayed. Typically passports take up to 12 weeks to process and currently they are taking up to 18 weeks, and up to 6 weeks to expedite.
Passport Requirements for Minors
1. Go to travel.state.gov and print off a DS-11 passport application form. Use the Under 16 page as a guideline to make the process easier. If your kids are 16 or 17, you’ll want to click here. Complete this form and bring it with you when you go to the passport agency.
2. Go to your local CVS, Walgreen’s, Walmart, or post office and have a passport photo taken. Photos need to be 2″ x 2″. It is possible to take photos at home, but it can be difficult with small children. There are plenty of YouTube videos with instructions, so if you want to try on your own, this is your best bet. I think it’s difficult to get the pose exactly to passport standards, so I prefer to let the “professionals” handle it.
What You Need for a Passport Appointment
3. Bring proof of your child’s U.S. citizenship, which is usually an original birth certificate issued by the state in which they were born. If you don’t have a birth certificate, click here for other options. You can also use this to prove your parental relationship with the child which is a required step in the passport application process.
4. Make an appointment at your local passport agency. To find the location nearest you, click here.
5. If at all possible, have both parents in attendance when applying for a passport. The government requires that parental relationship is shown for children applying for passports. If one parent cannot attend they will need to complete a DS-3053 form. The following may be used to show parental relationship and must be original or certified copies:
U.S. birth certificate (also evidence of U.S. citizenship)
Consular Report of Birth Abroad (also evidence of U.S. citizenship)
Foreign birth certificate
6. The parent(s) in attendance must present photo identification during the appointment. Valid forms of ID include:
In-state, fully-valid driver’s license
Valid or expired, undamaged, U.S. passport
Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship
Government employee ID (city, county, state or federal)
U.S. military ID or military dependent ID
Valid foreign passport
Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular Identification, commonly used by a parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant)
How Much are Passports for Kids?
7. Bring money to pay the passport fees. There is an application fee and a separate execution fee. The fee chart can be found here. Any form of payment is acceptable.
How Long Will it Take to Receive a Passport?
8. Now that you’ve completed the transaction, how long does it take to receive the passport? Processing time is approximately 12 to 18 weeks. The closer it gets to spring break, summer, and winter vacation, the busier offices become, and the longer the wait can be. My advice is, if you are traveling with kids anytime this year or early next year, apply for your passport sooner than later. You can expedite passports for a fee, and the current processing for those is up to 6 weeks.
9. Once you receive the passport, you will need to have your child sign inside the passport book on the signature line. If they are not old enough to do so, a parent or legal guardian may sign for them by printing the child’s name and then signing their own signature in the space provided. Next to the parent’s signature, write in parenthesis your relationship to the child (ie. parent).
How Long Does a Minor’s Passport Last?
10. Minor passports are only valid for 5 years, so you will have to renew them earlier than your own. Unfortunately, they are not renewable by mail so you will have to go through this process all over again. The process is the same for both types of passports.
*Disclosure: I am not a government employee, nor is this legal advice. I am simply providing information from our experience with the United States Passport Agency. Please use the official United States Government Passport Website, www.travel.state.gov, to answer any additional questions.
*This post was updated in July 2021.