Does Baby Need A Passport?

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Have Baby Passport, Will Travel

In the “olden days” I was a line on my mother’s passport. When I was old enough to realize this, I demanded a passport of my own. Which apparently was a real hassle for my mom since my parents were divorced and she needed a bunch of special documents to make it happen. An online passport application form makes things a little easier, but you still have to get the passport photos, get everything signed, and unless you want to mail some fairly significant documents like baby’s birth certificate, you have to head to the passport office.

The horror that was September 11 not only has made airport security a nightmare to navigate, but it made it necessary for even the tiniest travelers to have official documentation, ie – passports. Essentially the process is the same as for adults, except both parents must sign the passport application form and notarized letters must be presented if one parent can not for whatever reason. In the US, both parents must sign for the first passport in person, with the baby or child present as well.

Every country has their own requirements for passport photos. Canada is pretty strict about passport photo requirements. For adult photos they want you expressionless with a closed mouth. We got my daughter’s done at 9 months, and at that point whenever she saw a camera she’d burst into a huge grin. There’s an hour of my life lost somewhere in a cramped photo shop that I’ll never get back, but we finally managed to get the snap. It does seem that Passport Canada has lightened up a bit with regard to newborns…

A full front view of your child’s head and shoulders is required. Please note that the parent’s hands or arms may not be seen in the picture. Passport Canada is, however, lenient about the expression of a newborn (mouth open or smile).

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Drool is apparently OK in a baby passport photo…

Bub’s baby passport photo was taken at 4 months, and although he was not technically a newborn they did let me off at the passport office for not only an open mouth, but some drool as well.

Passport Canada offers a reduced fee for children’s passports, and for tots under 3, the maximum period of validity is 3 years. Babies with a passport issued in their first 12 months may be given a free one-time replacement passport, valid for the balance of the three-year validity period of the original passport. I don’t know a single family who have done this, even if their child was a few weeks old in the original picture. As of December 2011, proof of parentage will be required like in the long-form birth certificate for new passport applications only.

Getting a passport in the US seems to be a significantly more painful and expensive process.  While there are 9,000 or so passport acceptance facilities across the country that include many post offices, libraries, local government offices, and courts, you have to call ahead or to make sure they are accepting passport applications on the day you want to go. There are also 14 regional passport centers that operate by appointment only. While I get the need for heightened security, I now understand that the inconvenience and expense are probably why less than 40% of Americans have passports.

So to answer the question, does baby need a passport? If you want to travel outside your country, the answer most definitely is yes. There is some leniency if you’re driving between Canada and the US, but passports still make your lives so much easier in that department.

Do you have a funny baby passport photo story to share? Luckily Bub could hold his head up at that point but I’ve heard of photo shops lying babies down on white backgrounds to get the proper picture.

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9 Responses to Does Baby Need A Passport?

  1. J is a Bird at 18:01 #

    We just went to get my son’s passport renewed this past weekend. We live in Los Angeles. While we didn’t have to call ahead to the Post Office, we did have to note the times they were offering those services on a Saturday, which is very limited.

    Once we got there we quickly found our that even though we had presented my son’s original, long form birth certificate when we first applied for his passport at 8 weeks old, now at nearly 5 years old, we needed to present it AGAIN. So we had to drive back home to retrieve it, luckily we lived close by and made it back in time. Still we were a bit miffed. We had mistakenly thought that renewing a passport for a minor only required that both parents be present to sign not that we need to turn in both his old passport AND an original long form birth certificate. We were told that we would have to do this every time we renew till he is 17 years old.

    • Corinne at 18:05 #

      Wow. What a nightmare! Has it always been such a hassle, or just since 9/11?

  2. Courtney at 12:10 #

    My son’s passport photo was taken when he was 6 days old. He was lying on a white rug, my husband used his feet to keep our baby’s hands down and sat above him with the the camera ready. I straighten his head up and let go. My husband quickly snapped photos before his head flopped back to one side. After a few attempts we managed to get a photo with his head straight, eyes open looking at the camera. After this we had to go to the photo shop to get the photo developed and then into the passport office. A few days later our 1 week old had his very own passport, valid for 5 years!

    • Corinne at 13:43 #

      Wow! That’s awesome, Courtney. It’s cool that you can take your own photos, that’s the one thing that’s a pain here is that the photos must have a stamp on the back and be signed by the photographer.

  3. Les at 04:20 #

    I was just wondering about this the other day. Glad to know!

  4. Shawna at 02:44 #

    We went in to have our 3 month old son’s passport photo taken after shopping for an hour. He was sleeping in his stroller with a pacifier in his mouth. When I took it out, he had a red ring on his face, so we had to wait to take the picture until it was gone. Ha ha.

    • Corinne at 14:50 #

      Love it!

  5. Beth at 16:46 #

    I got my daughters passport photo taken at about 3 weeks old. We went to Walmart and in hind sight it was rather hilarious.
    The photographer insisted I put my foot up on a stool and put my hand up the back of my daughters dress and hold her head. My finger kept getting in the way and the photographer getting mad at me, started to yell at me that I wasnt doing it right. After telling the man off, we finally got my daughter calmed down enought to hold still and we got a quick picture of her that would work. In order to hide my fingers holding her head I had to hold behind the ears, but that made her ears stick out like Dumbo’s and she had tear stains down her cheeks and her eyes are all watery from crying. My husband and I laugh about the picture, saying its a good thing she will get a new one once she is old enough to realize how goofy this one is.

  6. Mike at 23:19 #

    For any child under 18 in the US, they have to have a passport to travel outside the country. And unlike the adult passport, it has to be renewed every 5 years (even if they’re 17).

    You do get a reduced rate on the child passport but since you have to renew it twice as often it’s not really a savings.

    Its even more hectic if you have a kid while you’re abroad! You have to apply for the passport ASAP and can’t get back home until its settled. In which case you have to get one expedited through the nearest embassy.

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