The first thing E wanted to get Q once she was born was not a Mamaroo rocker or designer clothes. It was a passport.
The gift of travel is the best thing you can give a person of any age. For a baby, it’s even more special. Little ones are never too little to start learning about the world, and the adventures they have observing life outside of their pack n’ plays are memories they’ll have for a lifetime, not matter how young they are.
My husband planned our daughter’s first international vacation as soon as she entered this world. We spent the last month of my maternity leave abroad, a somewhat growing trend as The New York Post wrote about this weekend. As such, out little girl needed a passport. The process was as tedious as expected, but E and I got one for our baby within two weeks. Rules for getting a child a passport are printed on the State Department’s website, but a number of my friends have recently asked me about my experience.
Below, I’m sharing some tips to getting a passport for a baby and how to make the process less hectic. The big surprise: the hard part was not the paperwork, it was getting an appropriate photograph of a squirmy, wiggly, confused newborn. Tips on getting that elusive photo are below.
- Go in person to the post office or passport agency to apply. If there’s an issue with your paperwork or photo, it will be easier to correct on site or within arm’s reach than waiting for the agency to receive your documents and mail them back. And, if applicable, both parents should go together with the child to apply. Passport offices need consent from both parents to issue the passport, and both parent’s attendance at the application site automatically conveys that.
- You’ll need your passport and original birth certificate for the child. We also brought her social security card as a backup form of ID.
- It can take up to eight weeks to get a passport. Pay extra to have it expedited. E and I got ours within two weeks. It’s worth every penny to shave off processing time.
- GETTING THE APPROPRIATE PHOTO IS CRUCIAL. I can’t stress how important this is. E and I had to go back to the passport office several times because we could not get an approved photo for Q. According to the website, the child needed to be photographed on a white or off-white plain background and face the camera with their eyes wide open, ears and neck showing, and dressed in street clothing, all in a 2X2 photo. Do you know how hard it is to get an 8 week old to sit still long enough to get a photo that hits those qualifications? Damn near impossible. I took nearly 300 shots on my iPhone trying to get the right image! Here’s how you can get the photo in much less time:
- Dress your baby in clothes visible from the chest up. If your child appears naked, the passport office will not accept it (E and I were sent home the first time because of this). A regular white onesie is fine so long as it’s visible in the 2×2 photo.
- Place your baby on her back on a white fitted sheet in her crib or on a flat surface. Fitted sheets will stay smooth and prevent shadows from forming on the background or on the baby’s face.
- Some people also recommend placing a sheet over a car seat and taking a photo of your baby while sitting in the seat. I found it cast too many shadows on the photo, but it could be worth a shot.
- Make sure the child’s neck is visible in the photo, even if this means shooting from slightly above their sight line so their gaze goes upward. But remember, the child must be looking directly forward, and both ears must be showing in the photo. This is harder to capture for a newborn whose head can be larger than their body than you think.
- Take more than one photo with you to the passport office and let them give you guidance on which photo to use. After two unsuccessful attempts, E and I took a dozen options with us to the third meeting and showed them all to the passport agent. Finally, we found an image that would suffice.