When we were expecting our first baby, we knew we wanted to keep traveling. The first question that came up was whether our baby needed a passport to travel. The answer was pretty clear, any kind of international travel would require a passport for our baby, even if our baby was just an infant.
We also wondered if our baby needed a passport to travel domestically? To fly domestically in the USA, a baby does not need a passport, but we should always carry our baby’s birth certificate. The same rules apply to fly domestically in Canada with a baby.
This post will give you all the details on getting your baby a passport in the United States. We have also included links to information on getting baby a passport in Canada where applicable.
Getting Baby a Passport – Table of Contents
This post contains compensated links.
How to Get an Infant Passport
Like us your first question about travel is likely “do babies need a passport?”. Our daughter was three month old when we first planned to travel from Canada to Barcelona. We knew from our research that our baby needed a passport for this international trip. When crossing international borders, each child must possess their own passport or Trusted Traveler Program along with a letter of consent if not traveling with both parents. For children under the age of 16, parents (or guardians) need to visit the passport acceptance facility in person along with their child and the application form.
Despite living in the digital age, a U.S. passport application is still a process that needs the actual physical attendance of both the parents and the child. While admittedly a little tedious, some careful planning can definitely ease the entire process for you and your baby.
Getting Baby’s Passport Photo
Now that you know the answer to the question: “can a baby travel without a passport?”, it’s on to the next challenge; getting that perfect picture for your baby’s passport!
Just like with passports for adults, the list of requirements for baby passport photos is intense. The picture must be clear, without glasses, on a plain white or off-white background, and be taken within the last 6 months.
Laying your baby on a plain white or off-white sheet is a good way to get the perfect passport photo. Once your baby is lying down, all nice and comfy, stand right above them and take their picture. Tip: Use the right kind of lighting to avoid shadows. For infants that can sit up, you may even use their car seat or high chair with a sheet hung over it as the backdrop.
For Canadian passport photo requirements, read this that gives additional instructions for passport photos for newborns.
Of course, the most challenging part is photographing your baby alone with nobody else in the picture. If you’re handy with a camera, click a quick snap at home or download an app to guide you through the process. Otherwise, drive to your local CVS or Walgreens for a photography session with printing too.
As per regulations, infants can have their eyes closed or partially open, but older kids need to open their eyes and look directly into the camera.
Fill Passport Application Form
Since the application process has to be done in person, it’s always best to get it over with sooner rather than later. For the procedure, the very first thing you need to do is download, print out, and fill out Form DS-11 from the US Passports Section of the Travel.State.Gov website.
Canadians can get the correct forms to fill out here.
Show Parental Consent
Another important thing you’ll need to keep in mind while traveling with your infant is to provide documentation on parental consent.
What’s the best way to do this? Head to your local passport acceptance facility together with your partner and turn in your baby’s passport application.
If only one parent or guardian is free to attend, the second person needs to fill a “Statement of Consent” form, get it notarized and hand it in with a photocopy. For additional scenarios and clarifications, read these guidelines.
In Canada, one parent may apply for baby’s passport, if you are not separated or divorced otherwise you need additional documentation. Read more on the applying for a Canadian Passport here.
Proof of Identification
One of the most obvious things to bring to the passport acceptance facility is a legal ID of the parent(s) or guardian(s), and a photocopy of the front and back of each ID on an 8½ x 11″ standard plain white paper.
Globe-trotters can bring a valid passport book or passport card that is valid or expired. Otherwise, make sure to carry your current foreign passport.
Here are other documents that are accepted (always double check these requirements online before heading to the passport office to avoid disappointment):
- Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, or a U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).
- A completely valid driver’s license or enhanced driver’s license which is in-state and has a photo is accepted as well. This also extends to those with fully-valid learner’s permits, temporary driver’s licenses, and non-driver IDs, as long as an additional ID is presented. Since IDs from out-of-state require additional IDs, bear this in mind while carrying your driver’s license.
- Those working in the Government can choose to carry their Government employee ID (city, county, state, or federal), while military families can bring their U.S. military or military dependent IDs.
- Other acceptable IDs include the Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular ID), Trusted Traveler IDs (including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards), Enhanced Tribal Cards, and Native American tribal photo IDs.
Only physical identification documents are accepted, so be sure to bring just that.
Proof of United States Citizenship
The next step is to provide proof to your passport agent that your little one is, in fact, a citizen of the USA. The evidentiary documents you can bring to prove citizenship include a U.S. birth certificate or a Certificate of Citizenship. However, if your kiddo has one, you may even present a fully valid expired US passport.
Don’t forget to carry a black-and-white photocopy of the document or your processing will get delayed. Ensure the printout is on a white 8.5”x11” standard paper that is legible and one-sided.
Gather the Paperwork You’ll Need
Now that you’re done wondering if babies need passports to travel internationally, you’re probably asking yourself what supporting documents you’ll need to apply. The documents for your baby’s passport application include proof of US citizenship, proof of identification (child and parent), and proof of parental relationship (or guardian relationship).
With just a few basic necessities you can make your baby’s passport application go pretty smoothly (even with a squirmy infant in your arms)! First thing’s first, keep a folder of all the required supporting documents and photocopies ready at hand.
You will receive the passport book and citizenship documents in separate parcels. It can take up to four weeks from when you receive your baby’s passport to get your other documents through the mail. So, if you have an international holiday with your baby planned shortly after, be sure to take that into consideration.
Where to Apply for Baby’s Passport
Where you apply for your baby’s passport will affect how long it takes. Depending on the dates of your international travel and the kind of service you choose, your baby’s passport can arrive from anywhere between a few days to around 10 weeks.
If you’re okay with waiting, simply look into the closest Passport Acceptance Facility through this website. Picking a nearby place will cut down on travel time, helping you get back home for your baby’s nap.
Your regional passport agency expedites the process unlike the post office, so try heading there if you can. While some centers don’t require prior scheduling, it’s always a good idea to call well ahead of time to make sure yours does not.
Waiting in a long queue while entertaining an infant is nobody’s idea of a good time, so if appointments can be made, go ahead and make one. You’ll ideally want to pick a slot when your baby is most calm or expected to take a nap.
Does a baby need a passport to travel ASAP? Yes, but while the routine procedure takes around 7-10 weeks, there are exceptions for emergencies and urgent travel. Expedited services are provided at an additional fee for travel that is scheduled within the following 4 to 6 weeks.
Checking Passport Status
Although the initial application process is offline, checking your baby’s passport application status can be done through the internet. All you have to do to check the application status is go to the Online Passport Status System site and enter your child’s last name, date of birth, and the last four digits of their Social Security Number.
Status updates can take up to 2 weeks from the date of application, so save yourself the worry and opt in to receive automatic email updates by typing your email into the Online Passport Status System site.
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This post was written & edited by:
Celine is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's been helping new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has contributed to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.