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Family Travel Series: How to Get a Passport for Your Child

by on May 16, 2012 · 17 comments

in Allied Passport, Family Travel, Guest Blog Posts

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This is part of the Family Travel Series on Choosing a Cruise by TPG Director of Operations, Danielle. Other posts include: Choosing a Cruise While Maximizing PointsIs the Disney Credit Card Worth It For A Cruise?How to Choose a Cruise Based on PointsUsing Frequent Flyer Miles for Cruise Flights, How to Get a Passport for Your Child and Cruising – Anchors Aweigh.

Although it was no small feat, finding and booking the airline tickets and choosing our cruise was tantamount to securing the venue for a wedding; the big stuff might be out of the way, but the outstanding details could just as easily cause our vacation to sink or swim. So this post will be devoted to one aspect of the prepwork we are currently going through to hopefully give our trip the best chance at smooth sailing; the procedure for obtaining passports for the kids.

Whether or not our young children would need passports was an obvious concern from the get-go since this was their first jaunt out of the country.  A quick search of the cruiseline’s website actually yielded a surprising answer: No, passports were not necessary. But were they recommended? Yes. So, technically, a “closed loop” (beginning and ending in the same US city) voyage only requires a US citizen to provide their birth certificate and valid government issued ID to embark (just the birth certificate will do for minors). HOWEVER, air travel to and from a foreign country is never permitted without a passport. So, worst case scenario, if while we are in Jamaica we needed to fly home we would be up a creek without those precious little blue books. And since I’m a worst-case scenario worrier, that meant that with only a few weeks till we were scheduled to leave, I started the tedious (and relatively expensive) task of applying for passports for my two toddlers.

What you will need to do/bring:

Person: Children (minors under the age of 16) must be presented in person to the passport agency or acceptance facility – a Google search will quickly help you find the place nearest you that will accept your application. We went to a nearby post office. Caution: not every post office will process passports and most require appointments so check first (though we didn’t have trouble getting a “next day” appointment).

Parents: Both parents or guardians must accompany the child(ren). If one parents cannot be present, then they must provide notarized written consent (less than 3 months old) giving their express permission for the issuance of a passport. Use the DS-3053 form and don’t forget a copy of both sides of the non-applying parent or guardian license/ID. Certificate of death or primary evidence of sole authority is also accepted and there is a form for special circumstances when it is not possible for other guardian to be present or give permission.

Photos: We went to CVS for our passport photos and it was fairly painless – most stores (Walgreens, Walmart, etc) with a photo printing lab will be able to help you out, but call ahead to make sure. We did go to our local Target first (and I had called and was assured that it wouldn’t be a problem over the phone) and then were turned down. At CVS the pictures cost about $9.99 each and we received two versions. Passport photos must be a full color view of the front of the face and 2 x 2. Some passport agencies/acceptance facilities are equipped to take passport photos – check ahead of time.

Say Cheese!

Paperwork: Fill out the DS-11 form entirely before you arrive. Bring proof of your child’s citizenship and your relationship with the child (birth certificate listing you as parents). The passport office will require originals that will later be returned to you with the passport. I brought along my munchkin’s social security cards too and though they weren’t needed, you do have to list their ss #s on the application so be sure to dig those out. As I already mentioned, you will need to bring your own license/identification as well.

Payment: Make sure to know what methods of payment the facility will accept. Even though the travel.state.gov website outlines the different options you should have (credit card, money order, cash, check), the post office we went to only accepted personal checks to cover the fees – even the processing fee paid to the office itself. You will also be writing two checks so bring a couple – one to the Department of the State that will be sent along with the application and the other payment goes to the passport agency or acceptance facility. A passport for a minor is $80 plus a $25 “processing fee” (what is paid to the post office or courthouse). I ended up paying $95 each because I inadvertently selected for KK and Con to receive both a passport card and a passport book (I didn’t realize I’d checked both boxes) plus the processing fee. Lesson? I didn’t need to get both kids a passport card AND a passport book - though now I’ve become educated on the difference. Learn something new everyday.

Panic: Okay, okay. This is definitely something you shouldn’t bring with you when applying for a passport. But, we couldn’t help but be a little anxious since we were less than 3 weeks our from our travel dates when we applied. Since we were turning in the kids’ birth certificates with the application we really wouldn’t have been in good shape if the whole package didn’t come back before we were boarding. So we bit the bullet and paid the extra fees to have the passports expedited in order to ensure that they would arrive in a timely fashion. The Department of State website indicates that this is a $60 fee per application (plus overnight postal fees), but to our surprise the postal worker actually said they would only charge us one express fee since we were sending the paperwork for both our children together. While I’m not sure what the “official” rule is about this, I do know that I was happy to save the $60 and both passports arrived within the ten day window! Kinda made up for the fact that I pointlessly wasted 30 bucks ordering passport cards for my kids.

In a hurry? If you really need to expedite the process, I’d recommend using a Visa or Passport agency. TPG has used Allied Passport & Visa on numerous occasions and he’s always had a great experience and quick turnaround.

Note: Passports for minors are only valid for 5 years from date of issuance.

Victory!

So now all four of us are equipped with passports, plane tickets, and a place to stay on the Carnival Destiny … what else, knowledgeable readers, should we be packing? Some of you have already offered a few great tips … nightlight, powercord, etc. Anything else?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jethro

    What did you do with the Signature line on their passport when they came back? Kinda funny looking at my 7 year old sig on his. LOL

  • Alan

    Handy stuff, but an important note about the “In a Hurry” section — You do NOT need to go through a third-party agency. In fact, you will save a bundle if you do it yourself. As long as you have proof that you are traveling out of the country within two weeks (such as an airline email itinerary), call the Department of State’s National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 and make an appointment for in-person expedited processing (at a regional passport office). You may have to wait a few days for your appointment, but if you arrive with all the required documents (and the photos) you’ll have your passport within 24 hours after arriving for your appointment. The third-party agencies use this process, too; they simply hold your hand through it and pick up your passport once it is ready (charging you a small fortune for what can easily be done yourself). I went through this process when I lost my daughter’s passport six days before an international trip (talk about panic!). In New York, at least, it worked miracles.

  • Vitaly Romanchik

    A very helpful shortcut I figured out recently that saves so much time sitting in the queue at the post office or passport agency, – go to your local county probate court and apply there. Both times we were in and out in less then 10 minutes (including all the wait). Previously we would have to spend hours in the queue at the post office.

  • Mikes

    I’d argue that the passport card is worth having, when you get it with the original. This is age ID for lap children and other places where they might get challenged as they get closer to age limits. They could be carried in a wallet much easier than a real passport. For $15 each it’s worth having… for $40 each (separate from the PP) probably not worth it.

    It’s always a good idea to get a couple of extra “original” birth certificates when you get the first one. They tend to be much cheaper when you’re getting multiples. It comes in handy for this sort of thing, you can be one on the cruise (in addition to the PP) to be very safe, and one copy can be kept at grandma’s for security.

    As you note, child passports are only good for 5 years. Also, you cannot renew: you have to do a new in-person application every time. Therefore, don’t rush to get one if you don’t need it Ideally you want to have some overlap but make it to the 16-year mark w/o buying 4 passports. (I agree that you should get one for a cruise, just a geneal suggestion for other readers.)

    Nightlight: you can also put the TV on one of the ship camera channels. This has the advantage that it brightens up as the sun rises. Of course, with 2 toddlers you need a light all night. We just took our twins on a 7-day and brought along their sleep clock (which changes from blue to yellow when it’s time to get up.)

    Power cord: technically Carnival will not allow you to bring an extension cord due to fire risk. It is hit/miss, but if you really need one, email Carnival’s special needs department and tell them it’s for medical reasons (ie. CPAP) and they’ll send an email OK’ing it.

    On Carnival you will most likely get a phone when signing them up for Camp. This is an IP (“cell”) phone which works just like any other phone on the ship, so you can call each other to keep in contact as long as you know the number. Very handy. :)

  • Joe

    Rules must have changed. I got my passport when I was 16 and it’s good for 10 years, not 5.

  • Mikes

    That’s right. At age 16, you get an “adult” passport at the normal price with the normal term.

  • Mikes

    That is to say: at age 16 you are an adult for this purpose. I don’t know if the rules have ever changed, but it’s been that way for the last few years.

  • Mikes

    Since you are on Carnival, you might want to look at their “Bon Voyage” site:
    http://www.carnival.com/BonVoyage/Default.aspx

    I got the red and blue Ts for our kids on our last cruise. They were a good deal at $10, but now seen to be part of a package with a sling bag for $20…. not so great.

    I also got the “wedding elegance” in this last cruise (5YR anniversary) and it was a steal. The frame alone is probably worth $20, and it also comes with a decent silver tray, nice certificate holder, 2 stuff bears and a cake-shaped jewlery holder. I can only assume that it is mis-priced since Carnival is not in the habit of giving good deals beyond the cruise fare itself.

    There are other various items, and the nice thing is that they post as travel so you can use a small amount of Cap1 credit to ‘buy’ a gift. I’m not sure if they’d get 2pts/dollar on Sapphire but I would assume so. For the small expense I go with Cap1 to make it “free”.

    Also, keep an eye on your price. If it drops lower at any time before final payment, Carnival will drop your price.

  • Joe

    Interesting Mikes, I got it 2004.

  • spneuge

    From http://travel.state.gov/passport/faq/faq_1741.html

    Q:My child is too young to sign his/her own passport. How do I sign my child’s passport?

    A: In the space provided for the signature, the mother or father must print the child’s name and sign their own name. Then, in parenthesis by the parent’s name, write the word (mother) or (father) so we know who signed for the child.

  • European_31

    I think those rules were in place for years (well, at least since1998).

    According to State Department (travel.state.gov), passport validity is determined by the age at the issue date:
    “If you were over age 16 when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 10 years.
    If you were age 15 or younger when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for 5 years.”

    My 14 year old just got her 4th (5-year valid) passport; her first was issued when she was 5 weeks.

  • GuestQuest Vacations

    Great tips! Make sure you have all of the paper work in order because if you don’t, your passports will be delayed. Also, make sure kids are comfortable having their pictures taken. Believe it or not, some small kids don’t like having their picture taken. :)

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