Does my child need a passport?

Most countries no longer accept family passports.Once upon a time, babies and children traveling abroad could simply be listed in their parents’ passports, and women often shared the husband’s passport. Such “family passports” were meant to make it easier for families traveling together to pass through border control. However, as technology developed, the concept of machine readable passports promised to speed up the flow of border control. Such passports, especially with the introduction of biometrics stored on a chip, could best be implemented with the “one passport, one person” concept.

Most countries have stopped issuing family passports, and many no longer accept them for people crossing their borders. Beginning June 27, 2012, even newborns traveling in and out of the EU-Schengen area must have their own passports. Although passports are not required for border crossing within this area, it is a good idea for EU nationals to carry a passport or national ID card as a form of identification when traveling, just in case, since these are the only internationally recognized forms of identification. Note that the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania, although part of the EU, are not Schengen members, so a passport is required for anyone passing into or out of these countries.

Individual passports have been required for some time for air travel in and out of the United States. However, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative means that the rules are a bit more flexible for US and Canadian citizens traveling by land or sea within North America; children might be able to travel with just a birth certificate or other document, although there are exceptions to the exception. For instance some cruise lines require passports. You simply need to ask.

A few countries such as Germany have implemented a special non-biometric child’s passport, which is less expensive and takes less time. However, be careful as such passports do not qualify for programs like the US Visa Waiver Program.

Getting a child’s passport

So, if your child needs a passport, what do you do?

First of all, plan ahead and allow lots of time for processing, mistakes, and requests for extra paperwork. You don’t want the stress of worrying if you’ll get the passport in time for your vacation! Peace of mind may be worth the extra expense of an expedite fee.

Most countries require the same types of documents for a child’s passport:

  1. Proof of citizenship: official birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad or certificate of birth abroad
  2. Previous passport, if there is one
  3. Proof of relationship (for both parents/guardians): birth certificate, adoption decree, court order of guardianship
  4. Proof of parent/guardian identities: IDs for both, or a copy of both sides if one parent is not present
  5. Both parents/guardians must give permission for the child to get a passport. If one cannot be present, you will typically need a signed, notarized consent form, or proof that consent of another is not required (death certificate, court order showing sole custody)
  6. Passport photos: these have to follow the same strict guidelines for adult passport photos, although there is some flexibility. In particular, the background must still be plain, with no part of other people showing. While this may seem impossible for a baby photo, there is an easy trick to getting a good baby passport photo.

Have you had any problems with children’s passports? If so, please tell us about it in the comments!

Image source: flickr (Greene Connections)

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