At What Age Do You Need a Passport To Travel?

At What Age Do You Need a Passport To Travel?
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Do kids need passports? As a parent, legal guardian, or any family member, you are probably asking yourself this question. Passports are undeniably the most important travel document, but does a child need them to travel?

Look no further for the answers. In this post, we will uncover the minimum age required for passport issuance, as well as different means of travel. You will also discover a super-easy way to take your and your baby’s passport photos at home. Let’s go!

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Do children need passports?

In theory, having a U.S. passport with you is the safest option for all family members, regardless of age. However, the reality might not be so easy; if it happens that parents do not have an opportunity to apply for their children’s passports, it’s not the end.

Below we discuss different types of travel and their requirements for children’s passports. Read on and check if your baby needs a passport for your trip.

International air travel

If you’re planning an international trip with your child by plane, you will be required to bring your child’s passport, and this applies to all children, including babies and infants. Your child will need their valid passport book when traveling by air to and returning from a destination abroad (including Canada and Mexico). Passport cards are not valid documents for traveling internationally by air.

The only exception in the case of international air travel for children are Lawful Permanent Residents, asylees, and refugees who can use their Migrant Registration Card (Form I-551) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (or other valid proof of permanent residence status or asylee or refugee status).

Travel by land or sea to Canada or Mexico

The land and sea travel is slightly less strict. If your journey is by land or sea to either Canada or Mexico, it will suffice to present one of the following documents that is approved by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, meaning the original or a certified copy of your child’s:

  • birth certificate,
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad,
  • Naturalization Certificate.

U.S. citizen children who are not traveling with both parents (either with one parent or a legal guardian) should have parental consent in the form of a notarized statement signed by both parents, saying: “I acknowledge that my son/daughter is traveling outside the country with (the name of the adult) with my permission.”

Moreover, it is always good to keep the proof of parental relationship with you while traveling with children.

Traveling by land or sea before your child receives a birth certificate

If you’re entering the United States by land or sea with your U.S. citizen infant who has not yet obtained their birth certificate, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will require one of the following documents from you:

  • a hospital birth certificate
  • a letter on hospital letterhead/letter from the doctor who delivered your child, including the child’s name, time and place of birth, and the name of the parent(s).

Closed-loop cruises

A U.S. citizen child under 16 (sixteen) who is traveling on a closed-loop cruise, which is a type of cruise that starts and ends at the same U.S. port, has the option of either presenting their: 

  • U.S. passport 
  • passport card 
  • Naturalization Certificate 
  • a trusted traveler card, or 
  • their birth certificate.

Children between 16 (sixteen) and 19 (nineteen) years of age can use the above-mentioned documents only if they’re traveling with their school or church group, or another organization with adult supervision.

Domestic travel

While all U.S. adults aged 18 (eighteen) and older traveling by air domestically are required to bring a valid state or government-issued ID, such as a valid passport book, passport card, or driver’s license, U.S. citizen children under 18 (eighteen) years old actually don’t need any form of photo ID when traveling within the United States.

Having said that, an airline may still ask you to provide proof of your child’s age, so it’s always better to come prepared with your children’s passports or birth certificates.

Passport requirements for children 

As you can see, the minimum passport age does not exist. Every U.S. citizen traveling internationally by air must carry a valid passport book. While for other forms of travel parents can provide secondary documents for their children, it is recommended to carry this essential travel document nevertheless.

Parents must apply for their child’s passport in person. Legal guardians or single parents are also eligible for the application. As for the adult processing, you must provide the following:

  • completed Form DS-11
  • proof of the baby’s U.S. citizenship with a photocopy
  • evidence of parental relationship with a photocopy
  • any additional documents concerning parenthood
  • your photo ID
  • a biometric passport photo of the child.

The fees and processing times vary depending on the chosen service. However, issuing your child’s passport will pay off in the future and save parents some energy while planning the next holidays.

More about children’s passports:

Get your baby’s passport photo online

Taking a child to the passport appointment might be a big journey for them. You can save it in the case of passport photo-taking and do the whole process at home. How? By using our intuitive app, PhotoAiD®.

PhotoAiD® has been trusted by over a million users worldwide for bringing 100% compliant passport photos. It works like a charm for children’s passport pictures, and here’s why:

  • No need to leave your home. Take your baby’s passport photo comfortably in their room or any other familiar space.
  • Unlimited tries. With infants and toddlers fidgeting and little children having lots of energy, taking only one perfect photo might be challenging. Not with PhotoAiD®! Take as many shots as you need until you get the one you love.
  • Advanced background-removing tool. This will be handy, especially for passport photos of newborns and infants. Hold your baby or lay them down on their favorite blanket, and let our app prepare a perfectly white background for a passport photo!
4 steps describing taking children’s passport photos with PhotoAiD.

These and many other benefits will let you conveniently take the children’s passport photos at home. Get the printouts delivered directly to your door, order a printable template, and get a digital copy emailed to you as well! PhotoAiD® comes with a full package of functions and options for your utmost satisfaction.


Let us put the most critical cases together. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions on the passport age and whether your child needs a passport.

At what age are children required to have a valid passport to travel?

Children of all ages must have a passport for international air travel; however, when it comes to traveling by land or sea to and from Canada and Mexico, they can present proof of citizenship in the form of other documents, such as birth certificates.

Do toddlers need passports?

Toddlers and other children, regardless of age, need passports to cross the border by plane. Land and sea travel may require presenting other identification documents. However, it is always recommended to carry a valid child’s passport with you.

Does my child need a passport to go to Mexico?

Indeed, your kids need passports to fly to Mexico. However, other documentation like birth certificates might be enough if you plan to enter Mexico by land or sea.

Can a child travel on a closed-loop cruise without a valid passport?

Children who are U.S. citizens can travel on closed-loop cruises using documents other than their U.S. passport. The documents they can show are the same as those when crossing borders by sea or land to Canada; they can also use a trusted traveler card.

Can a child travel internationally without a passport?

If international travel includes going to Canada or Mexico by land or sea, then yes—a child can travel internationally without a passport. However, any other trip, especially air travel, requires every U.S. citizen, regardless of age, to carry a valid passport book.

Does my child need a passport for domestic travel by air?

Your child does not need a passport for domestic air travel. Usually a child aged 16 (sixteen) and younger doesn’t need any form of ID when traveling within the United States; however, you should always check with your airline.

Does my child need a passport to travel to Europe?

Yes, your child needs a passport to travel to Europe, whether by air or sea, because you will be entering another port on foreign soil.

Should I bring my child’s birth certificate when traveling to Mexico or Canada by car?

If the birth certificate is the only citizenship evidence your child has, then you must bring it with you when crossing the border with Mexico or Canada by car. You can also bring other documents, such as a hospital letter or parental signed statement.

I’m driving into the U.S. from Mexico, but my baby hasn’t received his birth certificate yet. What documents can I use instead?

If you don’t have your baby’s birth certificate yet, other forms of documentation that will be accepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are a birth certificate issued by the hospital or a letter from the doctor who delivered your baby with the baby’s name, time and place of birth, and parents’ (or parent’s) names.

Closing thoughts

Here you are! No matter if your baby is just a newborn, a 1-year-old, or even a 6-year-old—they all need a valid passport to travel internationally. Crossing a border is a big deal, so you must provide reliable identification of your child.

Before planning the next international trip by plane, make sure the child has their valid passport books. And if you need to apply for one, trust PhotoAiD® with your kids’ passport photos. 100% compliance guaranteed or 200% money back!

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