New Passport Rules Affect Kids Too

| July 21, 2006

Have you booked a family cruise booked for 2007, or are you planning to? If so, do you have a passport for yourself, your spouse, and your children (including infants)? Unless Congress changes the current deadline, as of January 1, 2007, passports will be required for all air and sea travel to the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico and Canada. With an expected deluge of applicants in the last few months of this year, now is the time to apply for (or renew, if they're expiring) passports for yourself and your family. This article focuses on what you need to do and bring with you when renewing or obtaining a new passport for children.

Applying for a Child's Passport There are two important things to know about applying for a child's passport. First, all children will need a passport even if they are babies. My son was about four months old when we applied for his first passport, complete with a photo of him (and my arms holding him in the background).

The second important thing to remember is that even if your child already has a passport but it will be expiring soon, you still need to go in person for renewal. You cannot send in the form, fee, and photo for renewing passports of those 17 years and under, as you can for adults. The main reason is that both parents must be present with identification when applying for the passport of a child age 14 years and under. Those age 14 to 17 still have to apply in person; however, the language of the official passport site says that parental consent �may be requested.� To play it safe, it's easier to have both parents present for 14 to 17-year-olds as well as younger children. Part of the reasoning for both parents being present is security, such as possible parental kidnapping of a child from a divorced family. If both parents cannot be present, then a notarized letter from the absent parent is imperative.

What You'll Need to Apply You'll need to bring some things with you to apply for a passport. There are about 7,000 passport application locations nationwide. To find one near you, go to www.travel.state.gov/passport; select 'Where to apply in the U.S.' and search by your zip code.

  1. You can download an application form at the above web address and complete it prior to getting in line at the application office. While the application office will also have the forms on hand, you'll save time at the office by having the forms completed ahead of time. DO NOT, however, sign the forms beforehand. They need to be signed in the presence of the passport officer.
  2. Passport photos: You need two 2� X 2� photos (head shot/front view) of each applicant, no matter what their age. Go to a local camera store to have the photos taken, or do them yourself digitally, as long as you print them out at the proper size.
  3. Proof of citizenship: You can either bring your child's previous passport for proof of citizenship, or a certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state. (Make sure it is a certified birth certificate and not one issued by the hospital where your child was born. A certified birth certificate has a registrar's raised, embossed, or multi-colored seal; registrar's signature; and the date the certificate was filed, which must be within one year of the child's birth.) Other acceptable forms of proof of citizenship include a naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship.
  4. Social security numbers: While you don't have to have your child's actual social security card on hand, you do need to know their numbers.
  5. Payment: It costs $82 for a child's passport for those age 16 years and under. You usually pay $52 by check and $30 by cash. (Adult passports cost $97.) Verify the payment methods beforehand directly with the facility you plan to visit, since some - but certainly not all -- will accept credit cards too.
  6. Parental identification: Both parents need to prove their identity with any of the following forms of photo identification: a previous U.S. passport, driver's license, naturalization certificate, or government I.D.

Ready, Set, Cruise! The passport officers at the application site will keep your child's old passport (or if this is the first time applying, they will keep your child's birth certificate). Although it is disconcerting to give up such valuable documents, passport officers are required to keep the proof of citizenship with your child's application. Within about six weeks (it may take longer later this year), you will receive the new passport as well as your youngster's birth certificate or old passport in the mail. While adult passports do not expire for 10 years, children's passports expire in five years. (I can see why - my almost-five-year-old-son sure looks different now than in the passport picture taken when he was an infant!)

All of this takes some time, effort and money, but it's going to be a requirement soon -- and it is also so much easier to just grab the kids' passports whenever you fly or cruise rather than locate and produce their birth certificates. Now all you need to do - if you haven't already - is to book a family cruise! Smooth sailing!


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