Baby Airport Travel Passport
Credit: Getty Images/Flickr Select

In the middle of learning how to change a diaper, navigate my Britax B-Agile Travel System troller, and give a baby a bath, somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought: wait, I need to get my son a passport. And how does that happen, given that I’m sleep deprived and have zero free time?

The paperwork and processing seemed daunting, but actually, after some digging around online, I found out it was pretty straightforward. The key thing to remember is that a child under 16 who has never had a passport before cannot get one through the mail. Also, both parents must be present with the child at the time of application, which must occur at a passport agency or authorized passport acceptance facility like a post office. (If one parent can’t be present, there’s a solution, but more on that later.)

Here are the things you’ll need to apply: a DS-11 passport application; the baby’s birth certificate; parents’ IDs (driver’s license does the trick); the baby’s photo; an $80 check for the U.S. Department of State; and $25 for processing. Again, it’s not as scary as it sounds. It’s just key to fill everything out in advance and have all your ducks in a row so you can make this painless and stress-free.

So here’s what you do:

1. Fill out the DS-11, which you can get from the U.S. Department of State site. A word of caution: the two sheets that make up the form must be single-sided for processing, so if your office has a printer that only prints double-sided, print out an extra copy. Even on lines that seem silly, like applicant’s marital status (what? it’s a baby?), you must fill out an answer by putting a line through it or writing N/A.

2. Take photocopies of both parents’ driver’s license, front and back.

3. Get out the ORIGINAL birth certificate as proof of U.S. citizenship. I put original in caps because photocopies are unacceptable. Also, the original birth certificate gets mailed in with the application; triple check that it gets sent back to you via the mail.

Other acceptable forms that establish citizenship include: consular report of birth abroad, certificate of citizenship, or certificate of naturalization.

You must also show evidence of parental relationship (a U.S. birth certificate, foreign birth certificate, or a U.S. consular report abroad of a U.S. citizen does that). If you adopted your child, you must bring an adoption decree. And if the child only has one parent, he/she must show evidence of sole authority (see the State Department site for further information).

4. Take your baby to get their color 2-by-2 photo taken. I held Bobby up against a white background and that sufficed, though I stood off to the side (my hands only showed slightly in the photo). But the key here is that the baby must have his eyes open.

5. All three of you must head to a passport agency or a local post office that accepts passport applications. The National Passport Information Center, reachable at 877-487-2778, can tell you where the closest facility to your house is. For us, it was a post office up on Third Avenue in New York City, just a few blocks from our apartment. Both Rob and I were present, but if one of us couldn’t be, the non-applying party would have had to fill out a notarized statement of consent (Form DS-3053).

6. Once you get in front of the person accepting the passport application, they staple the photo to the form; you show them the baby so they can compare the picture to make sure it is indeed your kid; you sign the DS-11 in their presence; and you pay any applicable fees. That includes the $80 check, plus a $25 processing fee. If you want to get the passport expedited, it’s an extra $60.

7. And voila, in another four-to-six weeks, there’s the passport. We’re still waiting for the little blue book as we speak, but I’ve been researching trip ideas in anticipation.