It’s an easy mistake to make. You plan a trip then realize passports have expired. Is there time left to renew?

In particular, children’s passports sneak up on you. They expire sooner than adult passports do. Maximize your adventures by making sure the entire family’s passports are up to date.

Here’s the ultimate guide to passport age requirements and how to complete your preparation for your next international trip.

Passport Age Requirements for Adults

An adult who travels abroad often, for work or for pleasure, already has a passport. If you have family that lives overseas, you also might already have a passport. For someone 18 or older, their passport is good for 10 years from the date the passport office issued it.

To apply for a new passport, you must renew before it expires. For some countries, you must renew if you plan to travel with less than 6 months left of validity. You must also renew for some countries if there are fewer than 4 pages left of visa pages.

Keep in mind, passports can have either 28 pages or 52 pages, depending on which you ask for when you apply. If you travel a lot, it’s best to ask for the passport book with more visa pages, so that you don’t have to pay to get a new passport before the expiration date.

How Long Are Passports Good for Minors?

Children’s features change much faster than adults. For this reason, you need to renew your child’s passport sooner than yours. 

Also, if you were 16 when you got your passport, and you’re an adult now, you need a new passport sooner. If your passport issuance date is for someone age 16 or younger when issued, the passport expires in 5 years, not 10.

Keeping costs low when traveling is a chief concern for parents. But it’s best not to skimp on the fee for a new passport, because you won’t be able to board an international flight without one. Make sure to check the passport requirements for each new destination, because they may be different from your last trip.

For children age 15 and under, the passport fee is $80. There is also a $35 execution fee, which has to be a separate payment. For example, you need to write 2 checks, or get 2 money orders.

If you want the child to have a passport card, instead of a passport book, the fee is only $15. You still have to pay the separate $35 execution fee. Keep in mind the card isn’t valid for international air travel.

If you want both the book and the card, you pay $95 plus the separate $35 execution fee.

If your child is age 16 or 17, the passport fee is $110, plus the $35 separate execution fee. This is the same price as the adult fees.

A child 16 or older can also get only a passport card for $30 plus the separate $35 execution fee. For both the book and the card, it’s $140 plus the separate $35 execution fee. 

Children 15 and younger may not renew passports. They must apply for a new one and pay the separate execution fee. Adults, or children age 16 and older, can renew a passport and not pay the execution fee.

If you need the passport expedited, you need to pay $60 extra. A normal application takes 4-6 weeks for processing. If you plan to travel before that time, be sure to pay the fee to make sure the paperwork gets done faster.

US Passport Requirements for Children

Any citizen must have a passport to travel. It doesn’t matter how old the child is. If you plan an international trip with an infant, even the infant has to have their own documentation.

There are a few exceptions. If your trip is to Canada or Mexico by land or sea, your children don’t need a passport. They do need some proof of citizenship if you are coming on an airplane, though.

If you go from the US to Puerto Rico and you return the same way, you don’t need a passport. And if you go on a cruise that returns to the same port you left from, you only need an ID and a birth certificate, not a passport.

You can get started with an application for a child passport any time, as long as you’ll have it before the trip. It’s always better for your peace of mind if you apply sooner, rather than later.

Both parents have to attend the passport application of a child in person. The child must also attend in person. You can’t send a child’s passport application through the mail or submit it online.

You need these documents to apply for a child’s passport:

  • Form DS-11
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Photocopy of proof of citizenship
  • Proof that you’re the parent (sometimes gets included on proof of citizenship documents)
  • Parents’ IDs
  • Photocopies of parents’ IDs
  • Parents’ consent
  • Photo
  • Fees

Please note, some birth certificates aren’t allowed to get photocopied. In this case, you’ll need to get a second official copy, and mail it with the first. The second copy won’t get mailed back to you with your passport. 

If the Parents Can’t Be Present

If only one parent can be there, the absent parent can send a photocopy of their ID. They also have to send a notarized letter consenting to the application and a completed Form DS-3053.

If neither parent can be there, both can send that documentation with someone else. That person also has to bring a notarized letter showing that they had permission from both parents to complete the application.

What if only one parent has custody? You only need the custodial parent’s ID and consent letter, not the other parent. But you or your agent also has to bring a court document proving you are the only parent with custody.

For more family situation exceptions and further details, visit the State Department’s website.

International Family Vacation

The passport age requirements aren’t all-encompassing. The State Department divides children into separate categories, age 15 and younger and older teens (age 16 and older). Whether you’re traveling to Europe or somewhere else across the globe, make sure you’re prepared.

The right travel documents make the trip smoother and less stressful for the parents and the children.

For other articles about families and children, read more of our blog.