How to Apply for Baby's First Passport

We are a family that loves to travel. When I was single, I traveled all over the globe, and after Jarod and I got married, we took trips to Europe together. We have such a good time that we want to share our traveling experiences with our children. Our older daughter has already been on one international trip in addition to accompanying us to Ethiopia to adopt Elvie, and now it’s Elvie’s turn for her very first international vacation experience. At the end of September, we’ll embark on a two-and-a-half week trip to London and Nice. There’s a ton to do to prepare for traveling internationally as a family, and our first order of business was to get a US passport for Elvie. The process isn’t hard, but it can get a bit confusing, so I’m passing on what I learned as we attempted to make applying for Elvie’s passport as simple and smooth as possible. Follow these steps, and baby’s first passport will be on the way shortly.

1. Print the DS-11 application and fill it in, or vice versa. If you prefer to fill things in by hand, you can find the application, ready to print, by clicking here. If you prefer to fill in information online and then print, you can get started with that process by clicking here and following the instructions. I prefer the simplicity of printing it out and filling it in, so that’s what we did, but either way is fine. Just don’t sign the form yet. You must submit it in person, and you will sign it in front of the person who is accepting the application.

2. Find a passport office that is convenient for you. Parents listed on the child’s birth certificate must be present to submit the passport application, so that means if there are two of you, both of you must appear to apply for your baby’s passport. There are a lot of location options, so you can choose one that works best for your family. Some locations operate on an appointment system and others allow walk-ins. Most have weekday business hours for passport application, though there are a few that have weekend hours.

One thing that I highly recommend is that you use a location with on site photo in order to get everything done at one place. You can search for the nearest Passport Acceptance Facilities by clicking here, and if you want on site photo, simply tick the box to indicate that. At an Acceptance Facility, you can apply for a passport that will be processed in the usual amount of time, which is four to six weeks, or expedited, which is two to three weeks. If you need a passport in less than two weeks, you’ll need to apply at a Passport Agency or Center. These facilities are appointment only, and you can find a list of those by clicking here.

3. Gather the necessary documents. In addition to the form DS-11 that you filled in as part of step one, you will also need the following documents:

  • Evidence of US Citizenship  If your child was born in the US, you’ll need his or her certified birth certificate, the one that was issued by the city, county, or state, and has the official seal. For babies born outside the US (like ours!) a Certificate of Citizenship is necessary. A full list of what is acceptable evidence is here.
  • Evidence of Relationship Between Child and Parent(s)/Guardian(s) For babies born to you in the US, the birth certificate used as evidence of citizenship will suffice for this. If you are an adoptive family or have guardianship, it’s a bit more complicated. We submitted Elvie’s Ethiopian birth certificate, on which my husband and I are listed as her parents, as well as her official adoption decree and the translation, just to be sure. If your situation is a bit more complicated, like ours, more details on what will suffice for this evidence is here.
  • Identification of Parent(s)/Guardian(s), plus a photocopy to send with the application. If you are applying in the state in which your driver’s license was issued, then that will work just fine. If not, you’ll need to submit a second form of identification. We used our passports, which covers all bases. Bring the original ID and a copy of it on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, showing both front and back of the ID, if applicable. A list of acceptable identification, as well as additional instructions for photocopies, is here.
  • One passport photo, if not using on site photo. If you prefer to try to take a photo at home or happen to be in a passport photo location while your baby is happy and seems cooperative, you can bring your own photo along. Photo requirements are here. One reason I recommend on site photo is that we had our older daughter’s photos done in advance at a copy shop and had to have them retaken at the Acceptance Facility because the photos had a small flaw. If you are getting your photos done elsewhere, make sure they are just right.
  • Checkbook, debit card, or cash for paying passport fees.  The application fee that is included with the passport must be a check or money order. If you are applying at a US Post Office, you can get a money order directly from them at the time of application by using your debit card or paying cash. The execution fee and photo fee (if applicable) are paid separately to the Acceptance Facility. A list of fees is here.

4. Take baby to the Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency and apply! With all your documentation in hand, this part is fairly easy. The hardest part, for us, was keeping our toddler busy while waiting in a long line at the Acceptance Facility. Once it was our turn, we handed over the documentation, then had Elvie’s photo taken before doing the official submission. I was nervous about the photo, but they made it fairly simple. They had a white blanket to drape over an office chair, and Elvie sat there while I stood next to the man taking the photo and kept her looking in the right direction. For smaller babies or fussy toddlers, it would be simple to just kneel by the chair to soothe or help support your child while the photo is being taken.

While the photo was printing, the agent went over all our other documents to make sure we had everything that was required. We were then asked to state that the documentation we were submitting was true and correct, and that the photo was a true photo of our daughter, and once we answered in the affirmative, we were instructed to sign the application form. We paid the necessary fees and the application was complete.

5. Wait for your baby’s passport to arrive. Depending on whether you expedited service or not, your baby’s first passport will arrive within two to six weeks from the date of application. After five to seven days, you can check the status of your application online by going here and following the prompts, or contact the National Passport Information Center by using the contact information listed here.

That’s it! You’re done! Now all you have to do is decide where you want to go first and pack accordingly.

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