I’m hot and cold about getting my passport renewed. On the one hand, a new passport is a blank slate: crisp blue pages just waiting to be stamped, a blank book in which experiences and memories are recorded, in the form of stamps and visas.  I love paging through an old passport, reminiscing in my mind about the adventures those stamps represent.

On the other hand, there’s the passport photo.

I always manage to look like I have way more chins than I was born with.  I’m not smiling, so even my eyes look sad. It’s like looking at Eeyore in human form. I think I’m even wearing a gray shirt in my current passport picture.  And the surly clerk at whatever place I’ve chosen to have these pictures taken isn’t interested in taking them over and over again until I’m happy, let’s be honest.

Now try to imagine getting your baby a passport. 

We took the little Zeds on a closed-loop Caribbean cruise at 5 months old, and even though passports are not required on such a trip, we decided it was a good idea to get them.  If something happens in a port and you have to stay behind without the ship, you’ll need your passport to get home.

How does one even take a passport picture for a baby? I can’t be in the photo, obviously.  I was picturing me holding each baby up, Rafiki-and-Simba style, while a photographer tried to snap a rare and elusive no drool/tears/meltdown baby picture that met all the other passport photo requirements.

Turns out YOU can take your baby’s passport photo and use a website like ePassportPhoto.com to validate it.

Pro tip: instead of doing the Lion King pose, we rolled out wrapping paper, pattern-side down, so we had a plain white background (you could also use a white sheet). We laid each baby on their back, and snapped away until we had a few good shots.

Simply upload the pictures to the site, and they will tell you if the photo is usable or not.

Once you have a usable photo, you’ll need to complete a DS-11 form and provide a few other things–Social Security number if your child has one, original proof of US citizenship (such as a certified birth certificate), and parent or legal guardian ID.  You will need to submit everything in person at a passport acceptance facility (we went to a local post office).  You’ll definitely want to check and see if an appointment is required

Things to know: 

  • Both parents will have to go to the facility to complete baby’s passport application. If only one of you can go, you’ll need to complete a Statement of Consent.  If you have sole custody, you will need to provide supporting documents.
  • Allow 4-6 weeks for processing. If you don’t have that much time, you may be able to pay extra to have the application expedited.
  • You can track the progress of your application on the State Department’s website.

For children under age 16, passports need to be renewed every five years, so we’re coming up on that expiration pretty soon.  It’s just as well, since they look nothing like their photos anymore (my daughter finally grew hair).   And then they’ll get fresh passports to fill with new adventures! 

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