How to Get Your Baby a U.S. Passport, According to a New Mom

Heading on an international trip with a baby in tow? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your baby a passport.

The fact that I started thinking about applying for my daughter's passport before she was even born is perhaps the most significant testament to my love of traveling. That's right, while certain breastfeeding products were still a mystery to me one week out, I had grand plans to get my newborn a little blue book long before she entered this world.

That's how I found myself scouring the internet, trying to figure out how to get a passport for a baby. And it's why I spent the better part of an afternoon standing above my infant daughter, phone in hand, trying desperately to snap a decent baby passport photo.

Baby Airport Travel Passport
Getty Images/Flickr Select

It turns out, applying for a passport for a child under 16 who has never had one before requires a few added steps. For starters, you can't just order one through the mail. Also, both parents must be present with the child at the time of application, which has to 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's what you need to apply: a DS-11 passport application (see here), proof of your baby's citizenship (a birth certificate makes it easy), the parents' IDs (a driver's license does the trick); the baby's passport photo, an $80 check for the U.S. Department of State, and $35 for processing.

The secret to a pain-free experience is having everything filled out and organized in advance. Here's how to get your baby a passport, step by step.

1. Fill out the two-page DS-11 form. You can either complete it online and then print it, or print the PDF and fill it out by hand. Either way, make sure to print it as a single-sided page and don't sign the form until you're at the appointment.

2. If your baby has a U.S. birth certificate, get the original document and make a photocopy. You will need to submit both the original and the photocopy to get the passport (they'll mail the birth certificate back). If you don't have a U.S. birth certificate, a consular report of birth abroad or certificate of birth will work, as will a certificate of citizenship. See the State Department site for more information.

3. You and your partner must both be present with your baby at the appointment. If this is not possible, see the State Department site to review your options.

4. Both parents need to bring their driver's license and a photocopy of it, front and back. If you don't have a driver's license, a passport will work (valid or expired). For a list of other acceptable methods of identification, visit the State Department site.

5. Bring a photo of your baby that meets all the requirements. (The gist: They must be facing the camera with their eyes open.) I put down a white sheet and took my daughter's photo from above, then used Walgreens' passport photo service to crop and print the image. The Walgreens team member who printed out my child's photo even helped by Photoshopping out the wrinkles in the white sheet I used as the background. This was by far the hardest part of the process, so keep in mind that some passport acceptance facilities will take the photo for you (although it can be tricky for an infant).

6. Book an appointment at a passport agency or local post office that accepts passport applications.

7. Once you get in front of the person accepting the passport application, they'll confirm that the photo is indeed your baby, staple the photo to the form, and have you sign the DS-11 in their presence. You'll give them two separate payments — an $80 check made out to the U.S. State Department and a $35 processing fee that you pay the agency or post office. If you want the passport expedited, it's an extra $60.

8. Typically, it takes four to six weeks to get the passport (and the documents you submitted) in the mail, but at the time of writing, it was expected to take eight to 11 weeks. You also can track the application status online.

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