The type of trip you are planning for your family will ultimately determine whether your children need passports. All children will need some sort of identification, even when traveling with parents, when leaving the continental U.S.
Travel with parents throughout the continental U.S. does not require a passport. Travel to U.S. territories does not require a passport either, but proof of identity and citizenship will be required.
Your child will need a U.S. passport if travel plans include stops in other countries, such as going from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Mexico on the way to the U.S.
All children must present a valid U.S. passport for international air travel. This rule applies regardless of age, including infants and newborns.
If you are applying for a passport for your child for the first time, allow ample time for the passport application process.
If you're traveling to Canada, minors 15 and younger may cross land or sea borders without a passport, but a certified copy of a birth certificate is necessary.
Minors ages 16 to 18 must have a passport, passport card, enhanced driver's license or Nexus card to re-enter the U.S. from Canada by land or sea.
Passport Application: Minors Under 16
For a minor under 16, the application process must be completed in person, and at least one parent must appear with the minor. This passport will be required for all international air travel with parents. This includes doing the following things:
- Fill out form DS-11
- Provide U.S. citizenship evidence for the child such as a birth certificate
- Provide parent's U.S. citizenship evidence
- Provide documentation showing parental relationship to the child
- Provide legal identification document of the parent such as a driver's license
- Provide a document of parental consent for the child to receive a passport
- Provide one passport size photo of the child
- Provide applicable fees
Passport Application: Minors Ages 16 and 17
Minors age 16 or 17 must appear in person at the time of application, and a parent or guardian must present some form of photo identification if the minor does not have one. This passport will be required for all international air travel with parents.
The process is very similar for children under 16 years of age. The main difference is that it is possible to apply for the passport without a parent present. However, it is recommended that the provide a form of parental awareness such as a signed recognition consenting to the issuance of the passport.