NOTE: This post is written for USA citizens applying for their baby’s passport while in the USA. Both USA citizens and non-USA citizens residing outside the US may have different requirements and experiences.
If you have plans to travel abroad, your baby will need a passport. Typically it takes 4-6 weeks to get it back unless expedited. Passports for children under 16 years old are only valid for 5 years, so don’t apply too early if you don’t have any set plans.
If you travel to Canada or Mexico from the US via car or boat, you can simply bring the baby’s original birth certificate. However, if you fly, the baby will need a passport.
Steps for applying for your baby’s first passport:
1. Take Baby Passport Photos
Get out your camera and take your baby’s first mug shot! This might be the most difficult step because of passport photo rules but follow our tips below for photo success.
- Face straight on
- Rule: Your head must face the camera directly with a full face in view.
- Tip: Try dangling a toy, keys, or something bright near the camera to get baby to look in the right direction.
- They changed this recently. It used to say both of the baby’s ears must be showing. We had a tough time with this one! My babies have fairly round faces and their chubby cheeks always hid an ear. Thankfully our photos were accepted and they updated the language for this requirement as it was never really about the ears, just that baby should be facing/looking straight on rather than turned sideways.
- Eyes open
- Rule: You must have both eyes open.
- Tip: They prefer the baby’s eyes to be open, but for newborn photos, they’ll accept closed or partially open eyes. If feasible, try to take baby’s photos shortly after a nap when she’s alert.
- Neutral expression
- Rule: You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile.
- Tip: Babies try to mimic us. When we talk to them they often move their mouth and play with their tongues. I love doing this with baby, but now is not the time! Try to not move your mouth around or do extreme facial expressions so baby hopefully keeps a neutral face.
- White background
- Rule: Use a plain white or off-white background.
- Tip: Lay baby on a white sheet or white poster board and take the photo from above. Pay attention to the lighting as taking a photo from above can create more shadows (shadowing on passport photos is not acceptable). Alternatively, you can put a white sheet over the baby’s car seat and take the photo with the baby in it.
Review the Dept. of State’s passport photo rules for the full list (which adults must satisfy as well), and check out their children examples to get a better idea of what is and is not acceptable.
2. Fill out the DS-11 form
You can find the form here. You have the option to fill it in online, save and print. Or download, print and write in. Personally I always fill in via a computer to ensure text clarity and minimize the chance of mistakes.
3. Gather all documents
Get together all the required paperwork to bring with you:
- Completed DS-11 form
- Baby’s original birth certificate
- Photocopy of baby’s birth certificate
- Evidence of parental relationship (e.g., birth certificate, adoption decree)
- Parent IDs (e.g., driver licenses, passports, military IDs)
- Photocopy of parent IDs (need to show both sides, each parent’s on a separate page)
- Passport photos
- Application fee and acceptance fee
4. Go to the office to submit everything in person
You have to apply for the baby’s passport in person at a passport acceptance facility which you can search for here. You must show parental consent, from both parents, when applying for the baby’s passport. Typically the easiest way is for both parents to appear with the baby when applying. This is not feasible for everyone, of course, so read the alternative options for showing parental consent here.
Make sure to read the U.S. Department of State’s page on applying for a passport for children under 16 for FAQs and to verify the finer details.
- Preparing for your baby’s first flight
- Best tips and favorite toys for entertaining babies and toddlers on a plane
- Tips for surviving a long-haul flight with a baby or toddler
- How to determine if a travel destination is baby-friendly
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