Don’t Leave Home Without It
Tips for avoiding last-minute passport snafus
It’s worthwhile having a valid passport on hand for everyone in the family, as you never know when or where a foreign trip will beckon. While some countries still permit a child to be listed on a parent’s document, most nationalities require all minors – including newborns – to have their own passport to travel internationally.
Airports are particularly stringent on this requirement, and border crossings and sea ports are following suit. There are a few exceptions for citizens traveling among certain countries with reciprocal arrangements (for example, within member states of the European Economic Area or between the US and its territories like Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Guam).
Forms, Photos and Fees
Each nation has its own bureaucratic process of forms, photos and fees required to obtain a passport whether for yourself or on behalf of your child. You’ll also have to present certified documents supporting your identity and citizenship and have the application/photo notarized or guaranteed by a responsible individual.
Check with your embassy or passport office (almost all are online) for specific application details, and get the wheels in motion well ahead of travel time – at least 6 to 10 weeks. For an additional fee, you may be able to expedite the process, but don’t leave it to the last moment as delays and backlogs do happen even in the fast lane.
Note that many countries of the world are switching (or have already switched) to biometric, RFID-enabled, machine readable passports, so whether you are applying for the first time or renewing an existing document, the steps involved may have changed.
Passports from most countries are valid for a five to 10-year period (for example, 10 for US, UK and Australian citizens, five for Canadians), but children’s passports are often valid for a reduced time frame (for example, US, UK and Australian children’s passports go for five years, Canadian children under three go for three years).
Watch the “Best Before” Date
Many countries require your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of your trip, so keep an eye on your expiry date and renew accordingly.
Take a photocopy of your passport and put it in a separate safe place when you travel – or leave one with a trusted friend who could fax or email you a copy should you need one (it helps with obtaining a new one in the event of theft or loss).