Are you ready to travel internationally with your kids? In most cases, you’ll need to get everyone in your family passports in order to travel overseas (there are some exceptions, but you’ll want to check with your cruise operator or the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting). Passports are fairly easy to get but do take some effort and time, so you’ll want to start the process well before you need them.
This information is provided for your information only – we recommend that you check the official website for the latest rules and forms.
How to Apply For a Passport In The United States (And More)
Do Kids Need a Passport?
Yes, if passports are needed for your trip, your kids will need them as well, regardless of their age. Passports for kids up to the age of 16 are valid for 5 years, while passports for those aged 16 and up are valid for 10 years.
How to Apply For a Passport
It’s best to visit the US Department of State’s passport website to get the latest forms and information. There are some different processes and forms based on how old you are and whether or not you are renewing or applying for the first time.
If you are applying for the first time, or if you are a minor (up to age 16 for a renewal), you will need to apply in person. However, you’ll still want to download the passport application forms (DS-11 is the form for a new passport) and fill them out in advance so you are ready when it’s time to apply.
In general, you’ll need the following:
- Valid ID
- Proof of US citizenship
- Birth certificates or other forms showing parental relationship for those under the age of 16. Photocopies aren’t allowed – you’ll need an original or certified copy.
You will also need valid passport photos. There are specific rules for how these photos need to be taken, so it’s a good idea to get these taken at a place that specializes in them. For my daughter’s first passport, we went to an office store that also offered passport photos and these photos were rejected when we applied. Now, we go to a local photo studio for them.
In some cases, you may be able to get your photos taken at the same place you apply for your passport, but that may not be a guarantee. You’ll need new photos every time you apply, even for renewals.
Where to Apply For a Passport
Many local post offices and some town offices operate as passport acceptance facilities. There’s an official website where you can see all of the options near you.
Once you find a place near you, I’d recommend calling them to find out what form of payments they accept and when they are open for passports. Our local post office, for instance, only accepts passport applications during limited hours.
These locations also do not accept credit cards, and unfortunately, there were several families in line who had to leave because they didn’t bring a check. Official passport agencies do accept credit cards.
If you are applying for a kids’ passport, both parents need to apply in person. Lines can be long during school vacations when kids are out of school, so plan in advance.
You may be able to attend a special passport acceptance fair in your area. Check out this website for the schedule.
How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Passport
Fees vary depending on what you are getting. Keep in mind that prices can change, but right now, you’ll pay $80 for an under 16 passport (plus a required execution fee of $35) and $110 for someone over 16 (plus the execution fee). If you’d also like to get a US Passport card while applying for your passport, it’s an extra $15 for kids and $30 for adults.
While I’ve never used my US Passport Card, I like having it as a backup to my driver’s license.
How Long To Get a Passport
This can definitely vary, depending on how many applications are in the pipeline. You’ll need to check the latest times when you apply.
In general, expect it to take about 4-8 weeks. We’ve been lucky and have received our passports earlier than the stated times, but that is absolutely not a guarantee. I definitely recommend getting them as early as possible so you aren’t disappointed.
Do I Need an Expedited Passport?
If you are taking a last-minute trip or waited to apply, you may need to get an expedited passport. This page on the State Department website offers some great information about when and how to apply for an expedited passport. If in doubt, go with the expedited option to ensure on-time arrival of your passport.
In general, you’ll need to make an appointment for your expedited passport, and will pay an additional fee on top of the standard passport fees. It may be worth it, however.
Recently FedEx Office announced that they will be processing expedited passport applications. You can see more information about that here.
How Long Do Passports Last?
A standard adult passport is valid for 10 years, while passports for those under the age of 16 are valid for 5 years. When looking at your passport’s expiration date, it’s important to note that some countries require your passport to be valid for up to 6 months after you arrive.
How Do Renewals Work?
Adults are able to renew their passport by mail, but kids under 16 will have to go in person, with both parents present. Renewing a kids’ passport is pretty much the same process as getting a new one, but you’ll be able to use the old passport as a form of ID.
As with a new passport, you’ll want to fill in the forms online (form DS-82 is for adults renewing) and get your passport photo taken before going to the acceptance facility.
When I recently renewed my passport, I decided to renew by mail. When I went to the Post Office to ship my documentation, it was recommended that I get tracking on the envelope.
Does Mobile Passport Replace a Regular Passport?
Because of the name, there is some confusion about how mobile passport and a standard passport book work together. The Mobile Passport app does not replace a passport. You need a passport in order to use the app.