March 10th is Passport Day in the USA. All US Passport offices and many other passport acceptance facilities will be open for you and your teens and tweens to apply for a passport without an appointment. You will be able to apply for standard processing (4-6 weeks) or pay an additional $60 for expedited processing (2-3 weeks, door-to-door). If you’ve been putting off getting your teen or tween a passport – or renewing the one they have - this is a great opportunity.
The State Department recommends renewing a passport 9 months prior to expiration. Since minors under the age of 15 have to renew passports every 5 years, the deadline can sneak up on parents who don’t realize that the shelf life of a child’s passport is half that of an adult. If your teen or tween has had a passport for more than a couple of years be sure to check that expiration date. And if your teen is heading to college in the fall do it now so they don’t get stuck missing out on some great study abroad short course during January term. There is nothing worse than signing up for an international school trip or family vacation and then discovering at the last minute that the passport is expired. While it is possible to get passports in a day or two – you really don’t want to have it come down to that.
Whether getting your teen or tween their first passport or renewing an existing one, it is important to remember that the rules regarding minors under the age of 16 are pretty stringent. Specifically:
- Kids, teens and tweens under the age of 16 must apply in person – even if they are renewing a passport they still have to apply in person
- Bring certified documents such as the child’s original birth certificate or a current passport to prove citizenship
- Make sure the child has a social security number – and be able to provide it unless you want to endure lengthy processing delays
- Both parents must appear in person and sign consent forms – if you have sole legal custody or are a legal guardian be sure to bring full documentation as there will be extra forms to fill out. If one parent just can’t make it fill out Form Form DS-3053 and have it notarized.
- Parents must be able to prove their relationship to the child – since April 2011 all birth certificates used to apply for a passport must contain the full names of the applicant’s parent(s) but parents will need to produce personal ID as well. A current child’s passport does not prove the relationship to the parents.
- Bring single sided photocopies of parents IDs to submit with the child’s application
- Bring approved passport photos or call ahead to make sure the site you are going to can take pictures there.
This is a pretty exhaustive (and exhausting) lists of requirements but if you and your teens and tweens want to travel the world get those documents together and get to the passport office March 10th.
Want another way to celebrate Passport Day in the USA? Contribute to the Passport Party Project to help underprivileged girls get their first passports.