Are you thinking about your next big adventure for your family? Perhaps you have decided it is time to take the family abroad. In the midst of your vacation planning and packing, do not forget that even the littlest of travelers need a passport if they are leaving the country! So do not forget to plan in advance to ensure that you have enough time to gather the paperwork and submit it (in person- you cannot mail in a child’s passport application) and wait for your children’s passports to arrive in the mail! There is A LOT to do and prepare, so make sure you have everything you need.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to go about obtaining a passport if your child is under the age of 16.

1. Fill out the DS-11 form. This is the U.S. Passport Application. Make sure that you fill it out completely, however, do not sign the application until you are submitting it in person. You will be required to submit your child’s social security number. If you lost your child’s social security card, you may need an application for social security card, which can be found here: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/. If your child does not have a social security number, you will need to submit a statement saying that your child has not been issued one, and sign and date it.

2. Provide proof of U.S. Citizenship. There are a few different options to show that your child is a U.S. citizen. However, one important thing to remember is that you must provide the original or certified copy. If you provide photocopies or notarized copies, they will not be accepted. Proof of citizenship can include an old passport (it is ok even if it is expired!), birth certificate from the United States, or a certificate of citizenship.

3. Bring along a photocopy of your proof of U.S. Citizenship, in addition to the original or certified copy.

4. Show Parental Relationship. You will have to provide some kind of documentation that shows the parents or legal guardians of the child who is getting the passport. If you bring an original copy of your child’s birth certificate, this will count as both proofs of your child’s citizenship but also the evidence of parental relationship! Other proofs of parental relationship include a foreign birth certificate, adoption decree, and divorce/custody decree. Again, these documents must be originals, so do not bring photocopies.

5. Present ID. The parents of children applying for a passport must each have a current ID card. This can include the following: valid driver’s license, valid or expired US Passport, Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship, Government Employee ID, US Military ID, or valid foreign passport.

6. Make a photocopy of your ID. The photocopy needs to have both sides of your ID and be legible on standard 8.5×12 paper.

7. Show parental consent. This is HUGE. Both parents of the child who is obtaining a passport must be present to show parental consent. There are a few scenarios which may occur where one or both parents are not able to be present

-One parent has sole custody. If this is the case, you must show proof of this along with your child’s application. This could include a court order granting complete custody, a birth certificate with only one parent’s name on it, an adoption decree with only one parent listed, or a death certificate of a deceased parent.

-One parent is unable to appear in person when applying for their child’s passport. Parents are able to complete a DS-3053 Statement of the Consent form that is notarized giving permission for their child to receive a passport. The parent must also provide a copy of their photo ID along with this form.

-You are not able to locate one parent. If the whereabouts of one parent is unknown, the other parent must fill out form DS-5525 to the best of their ability. Additional documentation such as court orders may be requested.

-Neither parent can appear in person. If neither parent can apply in person with the child, a third party can apply for the passport if they have a notarized statement that is signed by both parents that approve the passport. They also must include photocopies of ID and any necessary court documentation regarding custody. Any written documentation from parents who are not present at the time of the application has to be within three months of the time you are applying for the passport.

8. Provide a photo of your child. It is best to use a white background behind your child. While it may be difficult depending on your child’s age, do your best to make sure your child looks straight ahead at the camera, and try to get a picture with their eyes open. The picture must not include anyone else in it.

9. Fees for the passport. There is both an application fee and an execution fee for your child’s passport. For the passport book and card, it will cost you $95, plus a separate $35 application fee.

10. Submit your application! Once you have collected all your paperwork and taken your child’s picture, it is time to take your child to a passport acceptance facility (this is generally a post office or clerk’s office, so finding one near you should be pretty easy). Once you receive your child’s passport in the mail, it will be valid for five years.

Now, if you have a child that is 16 or 17, the process is slightly different. Your child must be present to apply in person. They will still have to bring the same verifying documentation, including their own identification card. Additionally, they must show that at least one parent knows that the child is applying for a passport. This can be done by either having the parent(s) present when the child applies for his or her application, or by having a notarized statement. A passport issued to a 16 or 17-year-old child is valid for ten years. Need more information? Just head over to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/under-16.html to get all your additional questions answered about applying for your child’s passport.

Applying for a passport for you and your child is a necessity if you are planning on traveling abroad, so plan ahead to ensure you have plenty of time to collect the proper documentation, find a nearby passport acceptance center, and allow plenty of time for processing and receiving your passport. Normally, you can expect to receive your passport in about four to six weeks once your application has been submitted. Now that you know the steps to apply and obtain your child’s passport, it’s time to start planning your next adventure! Where will you explore with your family next?