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).
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.