Do children need passports to travel to Europe?
According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, every child 17 or under (this means all children, even infants and newborns) must have a valid passport among other official documents to leave the United States no matter where they are traveling even to Europe. Also, European countries require that all minors have passports from their home countries to enter their borders.
Due to many child abductions over international borders by parents, relatives and strangers, stringent requirements have been put in place to protect minors.
To receive a minor passport, there is an application process to complete, documents to provide and additional documents that will need to accompany the passport to be shown to a custom agent before leaving the country. To obtain a passport for a minor child the process is as follows:
Minors aged 16 and 17 have their own special set of requirements in addition to the basic passport application process:
- They must be present at the time of application
- They must present photo identification
- If the minor does not have photo ID of their own, the guardian or parent must present their photo identification
- A photocopy of the same identification document must be provided during the application process
- Parental or guardian consent must be established
For minors below age 16 there is a seven step process that must be followed to be issued a minor passport:
Step 1: Submit the completed and signed Form DS-11 Application for A U.S. Passport. To complete and submit this form the minor must:
- Be present with both guardians/parents
- Provide additional documents required on the DS-11 form (Listed in steps 2-7)
- Provide the minor’s SSN
Once the process for your minor child’s passport is completed, it is now time to think about travel insurance, which is highly recommended when traveling with children. When out of your own country, such as in Europe, accidents can happen and you need to be covered in case you or your child needs medical treatment. You wouldn’t go without insurance for your family here in the U.S., why put yourself at risk outside your home country. Travel medical insurance can cover transportation to the hospital, treatment while at the hospital or medical facility and medical evacuation if you or your child needs to be transported back to the United States for treatment.
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At What Age Do You Need a Passport To Travel?
Do you remember those days when you were a kid and didn’t need a passport to travel to other countries? Me either. Ever since I can remember I was always required to have my passport with me whenever crossing the border. Well, I did travel “only” to Europe and perhaps that was the reason; had my mom and I traveled to either Mexico and Canada, the situation may have been different.
So, from what age do you need a passport to travel, and is it the same for every type of international travel? This article will remove all doubt in this matter.
International travel for babies and children
All international travel requires that children and babies have some form of identification that proves their U.S. citizenship to present at the border, whether traveling by air, land, or sea. Whereas in the case of international air travel, all kids regardless of age are required to have a valid passport, both when leaving and re-entering the United States. These rules vary depending on where the children are traveling to and what means of transport they are traveling by.
Below we’ll cover the different instances in which you may or may not have to bring your child’s passport with you when going on your international trip.
International air travel
If you’re planning an international trip with your child by plane, you will be required to bring your child’s passport, and this applies to all children, including babies and infants. Your child will need their valid passport book when traveling by air to and returning from a destination abroad (including Canada and Mexico). Passport cards are not valid documents for traveling internationally by air.
The only exception in the case of international air travel for children are Lawful Permanent Residents, asylees, and refugees who can use their Migrant Registration Card (Form I-551) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (or other valid proof of permanent residence status or asylee or refugee status).
Travel by land or sea to Canada or Mexico
If your journey is by land or sea to either Canada or Mexico, it will suffice to present one of the following documents that is approved by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, meaning the original or a certified copy of your child’s:
- birth certificate,
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad,
- Naturalization Certificate.
Here is where it may get confusing: if the first leg of your trip involves a flight, your child must have a passport, regardless of what country you’re visiting. However, if you’re planning to return from a trip from a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) by land or sea, your child will only have to present one of the above-mentioned documents.
U.S. citizen children who are not traveling with both parents (either with one parent or a legal guardian) should have parental consent in the form of a notarized statement signed by both parents, saying: “I acknowledge that my son/daughter is traveling outside the country with (the name of the adult) with my permission.”
Do you want to learn more about passports? Check these out:
- Do You Need a Passport to Go to Alaska?
- Do You Need a Passport To Go To the Dominican Republic?
- Do You Need a U.S. Passport to Go to the Virgin Islands?
- Can Babies and Small Children Travel to Mexico Without a Passport?
- Do You Need a Passport to Go to Puerto Rico? – A Comprehensive Guide
- Do You Need a Passport to Travel to St. Thomas?
- Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun?
Traveling by land or sea before your child receives a birth certificate
If you’re entering the United States by land or sea with your U.S. citizen infant who has not yet obtained her birth certificate, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will require one of the following documents from you:
- a hospital birth certificate
- a letter on hospital letterhead/letter from the doctor who delivered your child, including the child’s name, time and place of birth, and the name of the parent(s)
A U.S. citizen child under 16 who is traveling on a closed-loop cruise, which is a type of cruise that starts and ends at the same U.S. port, has the option of either presenting her U.S. passport, passport card, Naturalization Certificate, a trusted traveler card, or her birth certificate.
Children between 16 and 19 years of age can use the above-mentioned documents only if they’re traveling with their school or church group, or another organization with adult supervision.
While all U.S. adults aged 18 and older traveling by air domestically are required to bring a valid state or government issued ID, such as a valid passport book or passport card or driver’s license, U.S. citizen children under 18 years old actually don’t need any form of ID when traveling within the United States.
Having said that, an airline may still ask you to provide proof of your child’s age, so it’s always better to come prepared with your child’s passport or birth certificate.
Does your child need a passport?
Although traveling by land or sea to Canada or Mexico or boarding a closed-loop cruise ship with your child may only require Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-approved documents, such as a birth certificate to act as your child’s citizenship evidence, it’s still recommended that you apply for your child’s or baby’s passport.
We should always remain optimistic, especially when going on vacation such as a cruise to the Caribbean (!), but it’s also good to be a little precautious, especially when you’re a parent. An unexpected event, whether minor or major, may force you to return home by air, and you’ll only be able to do so if your child has a valid passport.
Applying for a passport
Applying for a child’s passport requires the child and both parents or legal guardians (if applicable) to show up together and sign the child’s passport application.
Depending on whether you apply for regular passport processing or expedited service, you’ll most likely be submitting the passport application at an acceptance facility, such as a post office, or a Regional Passport Agency. You will be required to provide all the necessary documents including a filled out passport application form, U.S. citizenship evidence (for example, a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate), passport size photo, all other supporting documents, and fees.
You can find more detailed information on how to apply for a U.S. passport for your child here.
Get your passport photo online
Submitting your child’s passport application must be done in person, but there’s one aspect of it that can actually be handled online. Online photo apps such as Passport Photo Online can conveniently provide you with your child’s passport photo without you or your son or daughter actually having to leave your house.
By using our photo app you can save your precious time and spend it with your family getting ready for your big trip abroad!
To clarify: the question of how early you need a passport to travel is not a matter of age, but where you’re going and how you’re getting there.
All children, regardless of age, need a valid passport for international air travel. However, crossing land or sea borders with Mexico and Canada will only require the child to hold a document that’s compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, such as a birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of U.S. citizenship (for example a naturalization document).
All children traveling with one parent or legal guardian should carry a notarized statement that proves their other parent’s or legal guardian’s consent for them to cross international borders.
At what age are children required to have a valid passport to travel?
Children of all ages must have a passport for international air travel, however when it comes to traveling by land or sea to and from Canada and Mexico, they can present proof of citizenship in the form of other documents.
Can a child travel on a closed-loop cruise without a valid passport?
Children who are U.S. citizens can travel on closed-loop cruises using documents other than their U.S. passport. The documents they can use are the same as those when crossing borders by sea or land to Canada; they can also use a trusted traveler card.
Does my child need a passport for domestic travel by air?
Your child does not need a passport for domestic air travel. Usually a child aged 16 and younger doesn’t need any form of ID when traveling within the United States, however you should always check with your airline.
Does my child need a passport to travel to Europe?
Yes, your child needs a passport to travel to Europe, whether by air or sea, because you will be entering another port on foreign soil.
Should I bring my child’s birth certificate when traveling to Mexico or Canada by car?
If the birth certificate is the only citizenship evidence your child has, then you must bring it with you when crossing the border with Mexico or Canada by car. You can also bring other documents covered in this article.
I’m driving into the U.S. from Mexico, but my baby hasn’t received his birth certificate yet. What documents can I use instead?
If you don’t have your baby’s birth certificate yet, other forms of documentation that will be accepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are a birth certificate issued by the hospital or a letter from the doctor who delivered your baby with the baby’s name, time and place of birth, and parents’ (or parent’s) names.
Does My Infant Need a Passport?
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.
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If you’re planning an international trip with your infant soon, you may be wondering if your infant will need a passport to travel and what other rules and regulations you need to be aware of. Here’s what you need to know about traveling internationally with a baby, including if you need an infant passport, what rules apply to travel with a newborn or infant, and how you can prepare.
Do Infants Need a Passport to Travel?
The short answer is yes.If you will be traveling internationally between countries, your infant will most likely need a passport in order to leave your home country and re-enter it. There are some exceptions to the general travel rule, however, such as traveling from the U.S. to Canada.
Minors under the age of 16 traveling from the U.S. into Canada are not required to have an official passport and only need their birth certificate as an official document to enter and exit the country.
If you are planning to travel to most places outside of your home country with an infant or any child under the age of 16, however, you will need to plan to obtain a passport for everyone you are traveling with before you go—including your child.
How to Apply for an Infant Passport
You will need to apply for your infant’s passport in-person; parents and caregivers cannot apply for an infant passport over the phone, via mail, or online at this time. As an adult, you may have the option to apply for a new or renewed passport via mail or in some states online for yourself, but for infants, you will still have to visit an acceptance facility in your area.
You can search the U.S. Department of State’s Travel website to find a passport acceptance facility near you. In many situations, your local post office may also be able to perform passport processing, although you will want to verify that before you go.
Some passport processing facilities will also require that you make an appointment ahead of time to apply for a passport, so be sure to check the rules and schedule an appointment if your facility requires it. And, lastly, if you need your infant’s passport very quickly, you will have to visit an expedited passport processing facility and be prepared to pay an additional fee (around $60) to get the expedited passport.
The main application for an infant passport is Form DS-11.
As of March 2020, Forms DS-11, DS-3053, and DS-5525 are expired, but according to the U.S. Department of State, parents may continue to use these forms to apply for passports for children under 16 years of age. The DOS will post updated versions of the form online when available.
Form DS-11 has to be completed in person for all first-time passport applicants, including minors and infants. You can print out a copy of the PDF version of the form on the U.S. Department of State’s Travel website or use the online form generator to fill it out in your computer browser as well, then print it out.
If you choose to pre-fill the form, however, you should not sign the application until you are in the office in-person applying for the passport. The form is two pages long and fairly straightforward to fill out with your personal information.
If you plan on traveling frequently with your baby, when you apply for the passport, you can mark the checkbox “Large Book (Non-Standard)” at the top of the form to request a larger passport with more pages.
What to Bring With You
Before your appointment to get your infant a passport, assemble everything you need to bring. The last thing you want to do is wait in line with your baby to get a passport only to have to do it all over again because of a missing document. Here’s what you need to bring with you:
- Your baby’s official birth certificate: You will need the official birth certificate and, as a safeguard, you may want to bring along a digital back-up and a photocopy of the original as well.
- Proof of U.S. citizenship: If you are traveling fairly soon after your baby’s birth, you may not have your infant’s official birth certificate yet. In that case, you can try calling the local county clerk’s office to see if it is possible to expedite the process or if they have any recommendations for a verified form you can get instead. If your child does not have a U.S. birth certificate, the forms of Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth or a Certificate of Citizenship are also allowed to be used. In some situations, there are different documents that can be used as proof of citizenship, including family or religious records, such as doctor forms, baptism announcements, or even personal registers. You can also use a prior U.S. passport, even if expired, as proof of U.S. citizenship.
- Your baby’s social security number: Again, if your baby doesn’t have a Social Security number yet, which can take weeks after birth as well, you can still apply for a passport according to the U.S. Department of State by providing a signed and dated statement that says, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct: (Child’s full name) has never been issued a Social Security Number by the Social Security Administration.”
- All legal parents: If one of the legal parents is unable to apply in-person for the passport, that parent will be required to fill out an absentee form Form DS-3053, if applicable. If you are the only legal guardian of your child, you will also need to bring documentation proving that fact, such as a birth certificate with only your name on it, or a court order granting sole guardianship. In addition to being physically present, both legal guardians must also bring their own form of proof of identification and citizenship, such as an in-state, valid driver’s license, a valid or expired, undamaged, U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship, a Government employee ID, military ID, current foreign passport, or Matricula Consular. In some cases, if neither parent is available to appear with the infant, a third-party may be able to apply for the passport for the infant.
- A passport photo: There are very specific rules surrounding passport photos for infants. The U.S. Department website advises parents to either place the baby down a plain white sheet for the photo or line a car seat with a white sheet or blanket before taking the photo. The infant should be facing the camera and no one else can be in the photo. You should bring the photo, but don’t staple it or attach it to the passport form application.
- Photocopies of everything: In addition to bringing the original proof of citizenship, you have to bring an 8 x 11, plain black and white photocopy of all documents, your own ID included, that you are providing. The photocopy stays with the application and while it is officially not required, if you don’t provide it, it will delay the passport processing. If you don’t bring a photocopy, you will also need a secondary proof of U.S. citizenship. No photocopy can be double-sided.
What Comes Next
After you pay your passport fees (the cost is around $115 for normal processing), you will receive the infant’s official passport in the mail. Seven to 10 days after you’ve completed the application, you can track the status of your child’s passport application online or by calling.
Once you have your passport for your infant and yourself, you can see the world together! Your little one’s passport is only good for five years, so you will need to be sure to update it or apply for a new one after that.
A Word From Verywell
If you will be traveling with an infant out of the country, your baby will most likely need their own passport in order to be granted entry to and exit from a new country. All infant passports have to be applied for in-person, so be sure to plan accordingly before your travel dates. We know that traveling with an infant, especially for the first time and to a foreign place, can be stressful for a lot of parents.
With a little extra preparation to ensure your baby has their passport, you can help make the travel process as smooth as possible—and help your little one get that first stamp on their passport.
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. Frequently asked questions: children under 16.
U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. Canada international travel information.
U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. Get my passport fast.
U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. DS-11 U.S. passport application.
By Chaunie Brusie, RN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.