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5 Steps to Getting Baby a Passport

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Traveling internationally with a little one can be daunting, but that doesn’t even begin to cover the steps one must take in prepping. I.e. getting a passport for a fussy baby. After having my son, I didn’t know how long it would be before we decided to take our first trip. It seemed, based on our track-record, that it would be rather quick. And it was! Just two short months after birth, we all hopped on a plane and made our way to Helsinki for my spouse’s business trip. Since I was on maternity leave, it was an easy decision. The Redmond-based tech company we work for would be footing the bill for my husband, making the trip less expensive. That, and I didn’t need to ask for any time off! Bonus!!

Without further ado, here is what you need to know.

Obtaining a Passport

1) Birth Certificate, Adoption Decree, Custody Decree

Going into the hospital, I knew that one of the questions I would want to know was about the birth certificate process. TIP before going into the hospital, write down all the questions you’d like answered before you leave the hospital and give that list to your advocate or spouse.  You may be pretty loopy after giving birth and knowing you’ll get your questions answered can remove added stress. One of my questions was around the birth certificate, so I made sure my spouse was able to get this information answered. (Check with your hospital and/or your state’s vital records department as processes may differ across entities). Birth Certificates or other documentation showing parental/guardian relationship are critical to the process. Without such documentation, you’re not going to get the passport.

At our hospital (state of Washington), we had to fill out some paperwork before leaving and we received our son’s birth certificate about 2-3 weeks later. You’ll also receive other documentation such as Social Security Card, etc. NOTE if you do not name your child in the hospital, no worries! You will just have to mail in the information yourself. The hospital should give you an order form for the Department of Vital Records. Depending on the state in which you live, you will have different registration due dates, i.e. up to 5 or 10 days. Again, this depends on your state.

NOTE I did not have a home birth due to complications from my pregnancy. I think the process is similar; however, you’d want to check with your midwife to validate any details of the process for obtaining a birth certificate.

2) Photography 101

Now that you’ve got your child’s birth certificate or other documentation in hand, it’s time to take the dreaded photo. This is challenging, especially when the photo requirements are so strict. You can do this on your own, but we opted to go to Bartels (local drug-store in the Seattle area.) For a small fee, the attendant will help you pose your little one for that perfect candid. Luckily, for me, my folks were in town and helped me immensely, shaking the rattle and cooing at their grand-baby. Here’s how my son’s turned out. Thank goodness they didn’t notice my thumb in the picture, which I didn’t notice until after we got his passport. Oops…

Ignore my thumb.

You can opt to take the photo yourself. If you do, I recommend placing baby on a clean white sheet and snapping the photo to the aforementioned requirements. You’ll have to print the pictures (2) on photo paper, so make sure you have a way at home or via your local drugstore, etc. to print them.

3) Paperwork in Triplicate

To get the passport, you must complete the DS-11 form. Now this is CRITICAL; you must not sign the document until instructed by the agent. (More to come on the in-person interview.) In addition, you must also have your child’s Social Security Card. You should have received this around the time you get the birth certificate, but there is a process for if you don’t have it yet, in which you have to sign and date a statement attesting that you don’t have the documentation.

Example of the DS-11 form from travel.state.gov

4) Schedule the In-Person Interview

This isn’t as awful as it sounds. I mean, how are you supposed to interview someone who hasn’t even said mama or dada, yet? You can search for your local passport acceptance facility online, but usually you can find one at a local post office, library or other governmental office. With this meeting, both parents/guardians must be present. NOTE if one of the parents/guardian cannot attend, etc., there is documentation that you must provide, whether it’s a DS-3053 form providing consent or a court order granting sole legal custody.

During the interview, the agent will ask you a few questions validating the documentation provided and then will submit the paperwork on your behalf. That means you must bring all the viable paperwork to this interview, or you won’t get the passport.

Checking out the Helsinki waterfront

5) Required Documents

Below is a list of the required documents you’ll need at the appointment.

  • DS-11 application
  • Evidence of citizenship (birth certificate for example)
  • Photocopies (front and back) of the parents’/guardians’ IDs
  • Passport photo
  • Applicable fees (currently $80 for the passport book and $25 for the processing**)
  • (If applicable) additional forms such as the DS-3053

**For up-to-date pricing, visit the Children Under 16 page on travel.state.gov

Routine processing takes 6-8 weeks.

Collecting Stamps

Getting the passport seemed onerous and daunting, but really, it wasn’t so hard. Breaking it down into easy chunks made it possible. I.e. while you wait for your scheduled appointment, go get the photos. I found it useful to have a manila folder and a check-list of all the items we needed. As I started ticking the boxes, we were able to get the appointment and have the confidence that I had all we needed to be successful and make it to our first trip.

Since getting his passport, Charlie’s visited, Germany, Italy (2x!), Prague, Mexico and of course Finland. For the remainder of the year we’re staying state-side, but plan on going abroad next year at least once.

TIP To protect the passport, I always keep it in a passport holder. It’s great to also keep tickets and other small papers, bank cards, etc. all in one place.

Happy Travels!

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