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Getting Kids' Passports is a Trip from Hell

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Homeschool Mom warns that if you're planning on getting your kids a passport, plan on being frustrated.

Getting Kids' Passports is a Trip from Hell

Getting Kids' Passports is a Trip from Hell

My dad is turning seventy this year, and his dream is to take an Alaskan cruise with all his kids and grandkids. So, we are all going at the end of August. Sounds cool, easy enough, except for one tiny SNAFU: you have to have passports now if you are going to be stopping in Canada, and since June 1, 2009, everyone needs a passport to cross the Mexican or Canadian borders. I figured it couldn’t be that difficult, as we have birth certificates — just go down to the office and “Voila” — a passport.

Not so fast, kids: here is the skinny so you don’t run up against too many problems while trying to get your kids passports.

1. Plan on spending a boatload of money.

Each passport for your little darlings will cost around $60.00, and that is if you don’t need it expedited or have to pay for birth certificates to be expedited.

2. Not all birth certificates are created equal.

There is a particular size and type of birth certificate you need in order to get your child’s passport, and if your child is older than 10, then you probably have the wrong one. In order to get a copy, you need to show up in person in the city of your child’s birth or download the paperwork from the city’s Office of Vital Records website. The papers have to be notarized — which will also cost you before you mail them in. To have my son’s birth certificate sent express from San Francisco, it was $51.00, plus overnight shipping. The good news is I got it within three days. My sister was not so lucky because the city where her son was born did not offer express, so it was a 10-day wait.

3. Divorced? Hope you and your ex are on friendly terms.

Without their cooperation, you aren’t taking the kid across any border. Both parents have to be at the passport office to get a child a passport. If one spouse cannot be there, they have to write a letter explaining their absence and agreeing to the issuing of a passport for the kid. They also have to agree to the trip. This letter must be notarized as well. My sister has two ex-husbands to deal with to get her kids’ passports.

4. Passport pictures.

Shhhh … Go to Costco. They were $4.99 instead of $14.99 at the post office.

5. Make an appointment.

If you have any sense of frustration with bureaucratic lethargy and incompetence, waiting for hours at the passport office might push you over the edge. I am a naturalized citizen and all I can tell you is that when I was trying to become a citizen, I would bring a lunch and novel and snack to the immigration office expecting to wait for hours, and guess what? Without an appointment, you can plan on spending that much time at the passport office. With an appointment, you still need about 20 minutes per family member. Make your appointments well in advance because with the new laws, many people are trying to get passports.

I hope that my tips save some of you the frustration and scrambling we have been going through.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous June 30, 2009, 11:01 AM

If it’s that much trouble, then don’t go.

natalie  June 30, 2009, 11:02 AM

While I can understand this womans frustration, she should have been prepared BEFOREHAND. I got my first passport at 15, got it expedited, and there was no problem AT ALL. My father also happened to live in Florida at the time (we were in Virginia), and there was no letter necessary from him. Of course, this was almost 10 years ago, but as long as you are prepared, and know about your trip two months beforehand, you’ll be fine. Don’t let this article scare you!

jayegirl June 30, 2009, 11:50 AM

I had the same problem did not know that we needed a passport to go to Belize.My husband end up paying $200 in California for his passport 3 days they said.Filed on June 3 at local post office receive June 13 after paying $20 s&h fee both ways. We also spent June 12 at the passport office had appt for 8:30 am left at 11:30 after we found out they had just put it in the mail that morning.Also please don’t depend on the website to keep update tracking info on your passport it takes them 10 days to enter it online not for people who expedited there passport.We still in Belize leave July 4. I also too have and ex and because of that reason my daughter can’t get her passport till she turn 16 where only on adult signature will be required at the passport office. Nov 29 hurry please.

Irene Sherry June 30, 2009, 5:51 PM

We took a family cruise in November 2008. It was planned a year in advance.Our adult children and their children all knew that they would need passports. They had a year to plan. They all had them in hand long before they were needed. Unless your trip is an emergency or something, don’t complain about the system when it is your lack of planning that is the cause of your frustration.

Also, in regard to divorced parents, there are parents today whose children were absconded with by their ex’s who now reside in a foreign country and I believe that is more frustrating than having to ask an ex for permission to go on a family cruise to Alaska!

Melanie June 30, 2009, 5:54 PM

I honestly do not understand why this article was even posted on momlogic! Anyone with any common sense can read the passport application that can be downloaded or picked up at the post office. Of course it isn’t cheap but mine wasn’t either. If you can’t afford a passport you can’t afford to travel out of the country. Sure it would be great to get them for free but this is America and nothing is free.
Every parent should have an official copy of their child’s birth certificate. When I filled out all the paperwork at the hospital I paid for two copies of the official b.c. to be sent to my home. I have had an official copy of mine since I was a child. Don’t you need them to put your child in school?
Sure it may take 30 min to do everything at the office and more if you live in a big city but it’s just part of the fun. Much easier than when my husband and I got our passports. My husband was having to leave the country within three days for work so we went directly to DC to the main office and waited ALL DAY! Did we complain? NOPE! It’s a part of life.

All parents should go ahead and get a passport for their child. Even if you don’t think you will be traveling outside of the US this year. You never know when a great opportunity might pop up and you don’t want to be stuck complaining like this lady! Travel Well!

Amanda June 30, 2009, 7:45 PM

There is a thing called passport cards I believe. They are cheaper and are only for crossing Mexican and Cancdian borders and also can be used for the Bahamas. They are only if you are traveling by land through the countries( except the bahmas of course ) If you fly you need an actual passport

Margie July 2, 2009, 5:24 AM

Plan Ahead

You have to plan it right, and give plenty of time to gather all necessary documentations and vaccinations needed for the entire family. Especially after 9/11 attacked, immigration agency are stricker than before, I meant, EXTREME!

You are right, both parents must agree and sign some documents if one parent is planning to take their child out of the country. This has been going on for years… there is nothing new on this law. It prevent kids from being kidnap and be taken out of the country without other parent’s knowledge. Safety is important.

I agree with Costco - get your passport at Costco because it’s faster and cheaper.

Birth Certificate_ I haven’t heard of any problem relative to size variations. My family have different sizes, however, our is the original birth certificates with different sizes. We certainly did not had any problem of getting our passport. At San Francisco passport office, as well as in the American Embassy, in London.

Passport needed for Mexico and Canada- I recently went to Winnipeg,Canada. At the Canadian border, all they need is your valid identification card. In Mexico border, well, its been a while but I showed my valid ID and it was accepted. Kids don’t have any valid ID’s so passport is a must. YOU BET! ONCE YOU ENTER BACK TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA YOU BETTER HAVE YOUR PASSPORT! Valid ID is NOT accepted.

Birth Certificate_ Keep the original in a safe place.

With all your troubles .. I hope you had a wonderful time.

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