Travel Firsts : Getting Your Children’s First Passport

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We had a big travel first a few weeks ago! We applied for our children’s first passport in anticipation of our first international trip as a family. It really did have one of those special moment feels! While we’ve traveled internationally before (our trips to Peru being my favorite!!), we haven’t taken the kids along for the journey yet.  Getting their passports was our first big step!

Timing

We planned 8-10 weeks for the entire  process for our children’s first passport. There are several appointments and processing times that you need to account for:

Passport Acceptance Facilities

  1. You have to bring your completed documents to a passport acceptance facility in order to send in your application. You can find the closest one to your location here: https://iafdb.travel.state.gov
  2. Most passport acceptance facilities require an appointment. When we were trying to apply in April, ahead of the summer season, the waiting list was almost 5 weeks for an appointment. We lucked out when someone cancelled. Applying in February for our children’s first passport, however, we were able to snag an appointment the next week.

Passport Agency Processing

  1. Normal processing is 4-6 weeks. You can pay extra for expedited processing ($60 per passport), which will send your application through in 2-3 weeks.
    1. Our experience was slightly different, and we actually received our children’s first passport in 2 weeks with normal processing. This is abnormal, however, so plan for 4-6 weeks.
  2. You can pay “expeditors” to get your passport in quicker. They use the same trick available to you, showing up in person at a Passport Agency. This does require an appointment most of the time, but they can process your Passport same-day. If you aren’t located near an Agency, one of the main Passport processing locations, using an expeditor may be a good option if you need your passport quickly. You overnight  your approved application and they take it directly in for you, skipping the  mailing time.  These expeditors are not cheap and typically cost $250.

Documentation

We arrived with all of our documentation ready. This speeds up the process and ensures you hit those timelines. Our county clerk told us he constantly had people show up without proper documentation and get booted to a new appointment 3-4 weeks later. Preparation is important and essential!

  1. DS-11 Form – You can fill this out online and print https://pptform.state.gov
  2. Birth Certificate – This must be an original. You send it with the application, and you will receive it back via US Postal Service. We had Kindergarten registration at the same time so this could have been a big deal! I always recommend getting 2 original, certified copies so you  are never stuck without one!
    1. This also serves as your proof of Parental Relationship.
  3. Parental Consent
    1. The easiest way to do this is to have both parents present. Since you are planning to take your child out of the country, both parents have to consent and agree.
    2. If both parents cannot be present, there are other options on the State Department’s Website. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/under-16.html
  4. Parental ID
    1. Your driver’s license or passport serves as your ID. The State Department’s website recommends you also bring a photocopy. In our experience, they make a copy there and don’t like to take your pre-made copy. To be fully prepared, bring a copy.
  5. Passport Photo – Full requirements can be found at Passport Photo Requirements along with examples.
    1. Walgreens takes walk-ins for a quick and easy passport photo. They took all of our  photos in less than 30 minutes total.
    2. You can also take your own, just remember to following the Passport Photo Requirements. Some highlights include:
      1. Plain White Background
      2. Remove glasses
      3. Neutral facial expression – Lots of places will tell you “no smile,” but you can have a natural smile.
      4. Size is 2 x 2 inches and your head should be centered
  6. Payment – Bring a check or money order. The Official Passport Agencies will take other forms of payment, but most people apply at a Passport Acceptance Agency (Post Office, County Clerk, etc.).  Be aware that you will also probably have to pay the acceptance agency a fee so have an extra check.
    1. If you are getting more than 1 passport, each must have its own separate check to go with the application.

      Passport Options

      You have several different options when you get your passport:

      1. Standard Passport
      2. Larger Passport Book – Comes with 52 pages instead of XX pages. No extra charge., but specify on your DS-11 application.
      3. Passport Card – The passport card is only good for travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda  via land or sea. You cannot use a passport card for international air travel. If you are going on a cruise or drive over the border frequently, this might come in handy. I would never recommend getting this by itself, just in conjunction with a Passport if you drive across the border frequently.

      Our Experience

      Getting our children’s first passport was actually a smoother process than our own!  I credit a few things with making it easy and quick:

      1. Timing – Get it during the off-season. Do not wait until April/May like everyone else preparing for a summer trip. Going in February made scheduling an appointment so much easier.
      2. Be Prepared – Have your documentation ready! Call the County Clerk or get advice if you aren’t sure what to do in advance of your appointment. The appointments are hard to come by, so being prepared is key. You don’t want to get booted to another time!
      3. Have multiple copies of birth certificates – They will take it to send in with the application. You can get in a real bind if you don’t have a backup for other things, like Kindergarten registration!
      4. Checks – Come with enough checks to pay. It’s the only way to be sure you will have proper payment. Not all sites accept debit/credit cards, but they do all accept checks.

      Keep It Organized

      You can also make it even more special for your kids by finding a fun passport holder or carrier. They also have many family passport holders than can hold all of them in case your kids are on the younger side and not ready to keep track of their own passport while traveling.

      Good luck with your children’s first passports! We put ours to good use this summer with a trip to Playa del Carmen and Chichen Itzá for our first Wonder of the World with the kids in tow!

      Get Your Free Passport Checklist here : Passport Checklist

      Two Traveling Texans

       

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