Some children are ready for international adventures before they're ready to write their own names on their passports. That's not a problem: like scheduling doctor appointments and cutting up fruit, a parent can handle this task for a child. Border officials, like TSA agents, are trained to spot minor victims of kidnapping and child trafficking, so they should closely examine each child's passport when it's presented. Assuming it's valid and signed correctly, you and your child should be on your way without issue.

Do I Need to Sign My Child's Passport?

Maybe. The State Department, which oversees all matters related to passports, gives parents and legal guardians the right to sign a minor child's passport if the child is unable to do so. If a child is able to legibly write her own signature, let her sign the document herself. But if she can't write her name, do it for her.

Find the signature page, which faces the photo page and has a line under which is printed "Signature of Bearer." Sign your own name on that line and print your child's name above it. In parentheses next to your own signature, write your relationship to the child. If you're her parent, you would write (mother), (father) or (parent) next to your name. If you're the child's legal guardian, write (legal guardian) or something more specific like (legal guardian/grandparent). Use a black or blue pen and, to prevent smearing, make sure the ink is dry before closing the passport.

What Else Should I Know About My Child's Passport?

Applying for a child's passport always requires a visit to a passport acceptance facility in person; for minors, it's not possible to apply for a new passport or replacement online. Each time you submit a child's passport application, passport acceptance agents should ask to see documentation proving your relationship to the child and proving that both her parents, if she has two, approve of her having a passport. If she loses her passport, you'll have to reapply for a new one in person, pay processing fees and wait to receive the replacement – so unless she's extremely conscientious, hold on to her passport for her when she's not using it.

A minor needs her passport to fly internationally, even if she's only going to Mexico or Canada. The rules are a little more flexible when she's crossing those borders by car or boat, and she can show her birth certificate as proof of citizenship instead of using her passport.

If she was 15 or younger when her passport was issued, it will be valid only for five years. For a child who is 16 or older when her passport is issued, it's valid for 10 years.