Do children need passports to travel outside the US? That’s a reasonable question. In fact, in the 19th century, the Department of State issued what were called “family passports” allowing the entire family to travel on the same passport.

However, this is not the case any more. Each US citizen needs his or her own passport to travel, even newborns. So yes, in most circumstances, a child of any age will need a separate passport to travel outside of the country. However, there are a couple of exceptions for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. These regions are covered under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), and under this law children under the age of 16 are allowed to travel using a birth certificate only, provided that they are traveling by land or by sea and are NOT flying.

Children and young adults aged 18 and under may also travel on a birth certificate alone as part of an organized group such as a school group, church groups or sports team. The children must be traveling under adult supervision, and this exception only applies to land and sea travel. If they are flying, they’ll need a passport.

Getting a Passport for Child

Due to concerns over international child abduction, you’ll need to jump through a few extra hoops to get your child a passport, providing proof of your relationship to the child and documenting that you have the other parent’s consent to apply for the passport if they are not with you.

For details on how get your child a passport, see How to Get a Child Passport.

It takes the same amount of time to get a passport application processed for a child as it would for an adult. Generally speaking, you should allow at least six weeks for processing, but always verify current processing times with the Department of State. If they have a backlog of applications, it could be longer.

For an additional $60, you can purchase expedited processing from the government. This will reduce the time you spend waiting for the passport to about three weeks. If you need to get it more quickly, you can make an appointment at one of 24 regional passport agency offices or use a more convenient private expediting service like RushMyPassport. We offer processing in as little as 24 hours, with no need to make an appointment or travel to a passport agency office. Contact us today for fast passports for the entire family!