A child’s first international trip involves a lot of planning and preparation, including applying for his or her passport in plenty of time. A child passport has some different requirements than applying for an adult passport. Our TravelingMom with Daughters shares tips to help make sure that you know what you have to do before you cost yourself extra in time, money and worry.

Tips for applying for a child passport

Don’t make our mistakes when you apply for your child’s first passport! Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen / TravelingMom with Daughters

A few years ago, my teenage daughter’s high school robotics team traveled to Calgary for a competition over spring break. How cool is that – such an incredible opportunity for her! I’d known that this trip was coming for a few months beforehand. Her coaches warned us that since this was an international trip, we would need to start working on a passport right away. Our daughter had never traveled outside the U.S. before, so I added ‘apply for Abbi’s passport’ to my long to-do list.

I never expected that this process would be as time-consuming or as much of a headache as it turned out to be, mostly due to errors that I made. I had applied for my own passport a few years previously, so I thought I had the process down. However, it’s different for minors than for adults, and even though I thought I was researching things correctly, I was not.

Don’t make my mistakes! Here are three things to avoid, and what you can do instead to ensure that your child passport application process goes as smoothly as possible.

Mistake #1 – Putting off applying for the passport for too long

Yes, April seemed very far away – in January. And even in early February. Spring Break? Oh that was weeks and weeks away… Until suddenly it was early March and I was frantically researching options to get the passport here in time. And hoping there won’t be any problems which could delay it.

TravelingMom Tip: Timing is Everything

Standard passport processing takes six weeks, so apply for your child’s passport with plenty of time to spare. If you do procrastinate (cough), you can apply for expedited processing. This takes three weeks and costs $60 extra on top of the $80 you’re already paying for the child passport. If necessary, you can also pay even more for overnight delivery of a passport book. Don’t forget the passport photo! If you don’t want to spend the money to get one taken, see these tips on taking your own.

Applying for a Child Passport

Mistake #2 – Parents AND child must all be present

The requirement is that BOTH parents, as well as a child under the age of 16 need to be present in person at the time of application. If you absolutely can’t have both parents there, there are a few alternatives as explained below.

Between school and robotics practices, Abbi wasn’t home very often during regular business hours that February and March. When we finally got serious about getting her passport application done, we realized that my husband was about to leave on a business trip. We were already pushing the three week deadline for expedited processing, so couldn’t wait another week before applying for the passport.

TravelingMom Tip: Bring Everyone

For kids who are 15 or younger, both parents AND the child need to apply in person for a child passport. If one parent is deceased, you need to bring the death certificate. If you are a single parent, you need to bring a court order either granting you sole legal custody or giving permission for you to apply for the passport. No photocopies are accepted. If the second parent is not able to come in person, you do have the option of bringing a signed, notarized Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent instead. If you do this, you must also bring a photocopy of the parent’s ID. This worked well for us.

Mistake #3 – Not checking reliable sources when searching for information

Search engines are very handy, but you have to make sure that you’re paying attention to what search results you’re clicking on. You also need to check that they’re from reputable or trusted sources. As already stated, I was in a hurry so wasn’t as careful as I should have been. I searched for ‘passport office *name of my town* and clicked on the first result that came up. The site looked official and had a lot of information about applying for passports.

According to that site, our local post office accepted passport applications between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:30 pm. However, we found out when we arrived at 3:30 pm that they actually only accept passport applications until 1:30 pm. That information is clearly stated on both the official post office website and the U.S. State Department’s website. Neither of these sites came up first on a Google search for me. And since I didn’t double-check the information or the source, we had to make a separate trip back, and take our daughter out of school for an hour to get there before 1:30pm.

TravelingMom Tip: Use Reputable Sources

The State Department’s website has all of the official information about when, how and where to apply for passports. There is also a search function where you can find the closest Passport Acceptance Facility and see what their hours are. Rather than trust search engine results, make sure that you are checking the most reliable source.

Mistakes aside, we (finally) successfully applied for our daughter’s passport and were very pleasantly surprised when it arrived after only nine days. This left us almost a two-week buffer to get everything else ready for her trip. Sending our daughter out of the country for a week without us was a new experience, but she had a wonderful time.