Why you should renew your child’s 5-year passport after 4 years

May 8, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

For families who love to travel, there’s something especially exciting about a child’s first passport. It’s the travel document equivalent of the new car smell — that crisp cover and unmarked pages feel like the first steps to exploring the world as a family. 

However, before you start planning your next great family adventure with your kids, take a good look at their passports. You most likely know that kids under 16 are issued five-year passports as opposed to the 10-year ones that U.S. citizens 16 and older receive. 

What you might not realize is that you most likely need to renew those five-year passports at the four-year mark. (A lesson, I’m embarrassed to admit as a full-time travel journalist, that I learned the hard way during spring break this year when I realized my son’s passport was expiring in a month and our long-haul travel plans would no longer work.)

Related: A lesson in passport expiration dates — Reader Mistake Story

Why, you may ask, with the myriad other considerations for family travel to juggle would you need to start this process so early? Let me break it down for you month by month.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Passport validity rule — 6 months, minimum

Here’s something that may come as a surprise if you haven’t experienced it before: Many countries require that you have a passport that will be valid for six months after entry. That means if your child’s passport is set to expire six months or less from when you arrive at your destination, you can be denied entry or even prohibited from boarding your flight, although the airlines rarely alert you to this when you’re booking.

This six-month rule is not the case for every country, but it’s applicable to the 26 European nations in the Schengen Treaty, as well as most of South America, Africa and Asia. 

So, if you’re traveling abroad, you’ve already lost six months from that five-year passport since you’ll need it to be valid for six months past your travel date. Also, you, a parent who knows to expect the unexpected, have probably already realized that you don’t want to have exactly six months from your precise travel date, so let’s say seven months to be safe. 

Related: Everything you need to know about getting your child’s passport

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In person appointments — 2 to 4 weeks

Here’s another bump in the renewal road: Children’s passports need to be applied for in person — no exception — and each passport is treated as new, so you can’t simply renew. Additionally, both parents must be present (although if one parent can’t appear in person, they can print out the Statement of Consent and have it notarized for the attending parent to bring along with copies of their photo ID).

Can you manage that in a week or two weeks? Nope, me neither. Even if you can find a passport facility that allows walk-in appointments, and your kids don’t have after-school activities, and you and your spouse are free, you’ll still need some flexibility and wiggle room to make a plan since you’ll also need to get passport photos of your child before you apply at that in-person appointment. Depending on how quickly you can move, this step can take anywhere from a week to a month. (Note that some passport application sites will take a photo for an additional fee.)

Processing time — 8 to 11 weeks

U.S. passports
Passports (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Let’s move on. You now know you need to have your child’s passport renewed before the six-month validity window and that you’ll need to apply in person. So you head to the U.S. passports page of the Department of State website and discover that regular processing time is currently … eight to 11 weeks, plus mailing time on either end (the processing time starts when the agency receives your passport). Yes, two to three months. If you choose, you can pay an additional $60 on top of the $110 for standard processing to receive expedited service. In that case, you can cut that timing to five to eight weeks. However, you’re still looking at possibly two months for processing in many cases, even with expedited service. 

Related: How to survive a flight with children of any age

Bottom line

There you have it: Start with having a seven-month validity on the passport, almost three months for a renewal, then another month to gather photos, information and make that in-person appointment. You’ll need to start the renewal process almost a full year before you thought you needed a new passport for your kiddo. The good news is you now know this in advance, so you can get started well ahead of your next trip.

Related: Guide to the six-month passport validity rule

Featured photo by LightFieldStudios. 

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.