How to Get a US Passport for a Newborn

Jun 12, 2015

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When our first daughter was born we didn’t fly with her for a variety of reasons until she was 11 months old, but the time table for our second traveler is likely to be very different.  In fact, she isn’t even born yet and there are about a half dozen flights already booked or penciled in for her first few months of life (assuming all goes well).  I can already attest to life very much not stopping for a second born, and I found myself with a work commitment out of the country roughly a month after she is due.  Of course, I plan to bring her as that is way too soon for me to feel comfortable leaving her, especially since I will hopefully be nursing.

This means that virtually the moment she is born we have to start the process of getting her passport since even newborns need passports to travel outside of the United States.  Since I have been working through the steps we will need to take to make that happen, I thought it was a good time to share the steps on how to get a US passport for a newborn.  I wrote a similar post on getting a passport for my toddler here, but keep reading for an updated newborn version of that post.

How to Get a Passport for a Newborn

1.  Have the baby.

Okay this one may seem obvious, but there are really no actionable items you can take to get the child’s passport beyond researching the process and perhaps starting to fill out what you can on the DS-11 until your child is actually born.  This isn’t like trying to get a nanny or a slot in a coveted daycare where you need to put down a deposit potentially before the child is even conceived in some parts of the country!

2.  Request a birth certificate ASAP.

You won’t be able to get the passport until you have the certified birth certificate, so be sure to complete that relevant birth certificate paperwork as soon as possible after the child is born and then request a copy (long form) of the birth certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics ASAP.  The commemorative version you may get from the hospital does not count as it needs to be the certified copy with the registrar’s signature and embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal of the registrar

You will not really be able to move forward with the passport process until you have the official birth certificate.  The exact process of getting the birth certificate varies around the country, but often it is possible within the first week or two of life.

I will also add that you don’t have to have the newborn’s social security number yet in order to get a passport, though if you have one it must be provided.

3.  Make appointment at a passport agency, if needed. 

If you are in a hurry to get the birth certificate like we will be, you can request an appointment at a passport agency if travel is within 2 weeks, or 4 weeks if you also need to apply for a visa.  Your child really must be born in order to request this appointment as you have to enter the date of birth on the online appointment request form.  If you aren’t in a rush you can also apply at many post offices or court houses.

4.  Take passport photos.

This part is probably pretty humorous with a newborn as they kind of look like blobs, are squirmy, can’t hold their necks up, and they sleep much of the time.  However, they still need passport photos, and you can’t be in the photo with them.  They need to be looking at/toward the camera, preferably with eyes open, though that isn’t required for infants and newborns.  With infants and newborns you can lay the baby on their back on a white sheet or blanket and take the photo from above (just be sure there are no shadows on their face).  You can also cover a car seat with a white sheet and take the photo of them in that manner.

As with all passport photos, the photos need to be in color, printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper, 2 x 2 inches in size, and the head needs to be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inch from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.

5.  Collect and complete the necessary forms and paperwork.

For most US born infants, you will need the following items to apply for a US passport:

  • Completed, unsigned form DS-11
  • Certified birth certificate meeting the criteria outlined above (serves as both evidence of U.S. citizenship and evidence of relationship) – if parents’ full names are not both listed on the birth certificate, you will need some additional documentation
  • Parent’s ID (valid driver’s license will work)
  • Copy of each identification document
  • Two passport photos
  • Payment for fees (fees will likely be $105 – $165 depending if you require expedited handling)

6.  Go in person to the passport agency

Newborns and children under 16 have to apply for one in person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility. The child and both parents or guardians must be present, or if that isn’t possible, you can submit documents for the parent not in attendance including a notarized Form DS-3053. (details here)

7.  Travel for 5 years (4.5 years) with the new passport!

Child passports are only good for 5 years, and really most of the time that means 4.5 years since the passport often has to be more than 6 months out from expiring for most trips.  This means you will have to renew your child’s passport many times before they hit adulthood.  Unfortunately, even the renewal process for children under 16 must be completed in person, so if you can get your family members on a similar schedule for renewals at some point that may be beneficial rather than having to track multiple expiration dates for multiple family members and risk not having a current passport when it comes time to travel.

I’m considering renewing my husband and/or Little C’s when we get our second traveler’s passport just so that we aren’t repeating some of this process again in another year or two.  If we don’t do that this time around due to how crazy life will probably be at that moment, we certainly will be batching them at least two at a time the next time someone is due for renewal.

8.  Consider getting Global Entry and/or NEXUS

Unlike with TSA Pre-Check, your Global Entry perks do not translate to your child.  Children, even newborns, have to be approved for that all on their own.  If they aren’t then your Global Entry won’t do you much good when you travel abroad with your family.  I will write a separate post on that process, but here is how we got Global Entry and NEXUS for our oldest daughter for free.

Have you ever had to get a passport for a newborn?  How did the process go?

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