When was the last time you had to sign something? Writing checks has become less common since the rise of online banking, and writing letters has similarly dwindled in popularity. It's lucky, then, that signing your name is like riding a bike – because a passport isn't valid until it's signed. The signature page faces the photo page that the TSA and customs agents check each time a traveler crosses a border, and failing to sign the passport can cause delays. Sign the document as soon as it arrives or at least before you leave for an international trip.

How Do I Sign My Passport?

When your new passport arrives, immediately open it to the photo page. It's page 2 in a standard American passport. Check over the information printed there, including your name, birth date and place of birth. Those details should all match the information provided on your passport application. If any details are incorrect, don't bother signing the document; to apply for a corrected passport, the State Department requires the return of the incorrect passport.

The signature page faces the photo page. In the current version of an American passport, this page includes an image of a bald eagle and the text of the Preamble to the Constitution as well as a line labeled "Signature of Bearer" – that is, the person who owns the passport. Use a black or blue pen to sign your name on this line. Don't use pencil or any other color of ink. Hold the page open to let the ink dry, if necessary.

That's all it takes to sign a passport book. Note that a passport card doesn't have to be signed and is valid and usable as soon as you receive it.

Do Children Sign Their Own Passports?

It depends. The State Department's official position is that a parent or legal guardian can sign a child's passport if the child is too young to do it. One child may be able to handle this task at age 6, while another won't master her signature until years later. You be the judge of whether your child needs you to sign his or her passport.

To sign a child's passport, print the child's name on the signature line and sign your name next to it. (If the names are too long to both fit on the line, put your signature on the line and the child's name above yours.) Next to your signature, write your relationship to the child in parentheses; for example, write (parent) or (legal guardian). Again, use black or blue ink only.

Follow the same process to sign the passport of an adult with a physical disability that prevents him from writing his own signature. A person with legal guardianship of the disabled adult may sign the document on his or her behalf.