Recently, we applied for passports for our kids so I wanted to pass along the goods. If you need one for spring break, then you are still within the 4-6 week window so there’s still time!
1. Children under the age of 16 applying for passports must do so in person (cannot do it online) and both parents or the child’s legal guardians must be present in person. (if only one can be present or one parent is deceased, then there’s an additional form that must be filled out and notarized).
2. Passports for adults are valid for 10 years. Passports for children under 16 are valid for 5 years. (Make a note of this somewhere. I know parents who have “assumed” their child’s passport was valid for 10 years, like theirs, and they got to the airport and only then did they find out the 5 year rule. You know what happens when you “assume”? You make an a$$ of out u and me. Ouch.)
1. Passport forms – The forms are available at the travel.state.gov website. You will need form DS-11. It looks long but most of it is instructions so it really is only 2 pages. Fill it out before you go to the passport office.
2. Passport photos – They can be taken at CVS or Walgreen’s or at the passport office. CVS and Walgreen’s have software that sizes the photo to the exact specifications required by the State Department. It is $40 to have them taken at the USPS and $20 at Walgreen’s.
I do not recommend taking your own photos because the State Department has gotten VERY PICKY with photos. A friend told me her daughter’s passport was denied because she was wearing a headband. We had our kids’ passport photos taken at Walgreen’s.
3. Identification for parents – There are all sorts of identification that parents can take. We opted for our NC driver’s license.
You must bring your driver’s license AND a photo copy of your driver’s license. Make a photo copy of the front and back. My husband said “there’s nothing meaningful on the back of mine” to which I replied “FRONT AND BACK”.
Bring a photo copy for each child. I brought one copy of ours and got the stink eye from the USPS employee who begrudgingly made an additional copy after he thought about sending us home. I seriously thought he was going to send us home (I could see it in his eyes) and I was locked and loaded to have a grade A – DEFCON 1 – melt down, the likes of which he’s never seen. My husband silently prayed that the man made us a copy (I could see it in his eyes).
4. Identification for children – Parents must bring a certified copy of each child’s birth certificates – not a photo copy – the real deal.
5. Passport appointment – There are 7 passport offices in Charlotte. You have to make an appointment by calling the passport appointment line 704-359-0761 and NOT one of the 7 passport offices.
Good luck finding that super secret phone number on the website. I called one of the actual passport offices and when I fInALlY got someone on the phone, they gave me the passport appointment line number and hung up.
Once I got someone on the phone at the appointment line, booking the appointment was easy. Getting them to answer the phone so I could make an appointment was another story.
It reminded me of life before call waiting was invented – busy, busy, busy – redial, redial, redial, redial – and finally! – ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring… (Seriously? I’ve been calling you all night and suddenly you hang up your other call and RUN out the door?)
According to the USPS employee who helped us, the process changed to “appointment only” 4 or 5 months ago. Don’t quote him on that as he did not seem very sure although he’s worked the passport process for double digit years and has been working at the USPS long enough to retire next year (you can quote him on that). He admitted that the new appointment process needs some work and that they still had some kinks to work out. (yeah, you think? after snOMG ’14, our first appointment was cancelled so I had to start over to get a new appointment)
6. Bring some checks – Do not forget to bring checks. You need a separate check or money order for each applicant. There’s a fee for the State Department for each applicant and they only take checks – ours were $140 each. Then, you pay the USPS $50 (to put the applications in an envelope and apply a stamp) and they will take a credit card for that.
And now we wait. They told us routine processing takes 4-6 weeks and expedited takes 2-3 weeks. Bon voyage, I hope!