Does a Newborn Need a Passport?

We’ve been flying with our son since he was a teeny tiny baby and have done a LOT of research about what documentation is needed to travel domestically and internationally. Please read this information carefully as you prepare to gather and submit paperwork for your new baby’s passport:

Every child, including newborns, are required to have a passport when traveling internationally by air, with no exceptions. However, if traveling by land or sea from the U.S. to Canada or Mexico, minors under the age of 16 do not need a passport, and a birth certificate will suffice.

The information in this article is specifically for newborns who are U.S. citizens. You’ll find more in-depth insight about travel paperwork in my article on the 6 documents you may need to travel internationally with your baby.

My son with his two passports (U.S. and Canada) after much paperwork and waiting for them to be processed!

Please keep in mind that getting a passport takes time, especially for a minor because you have to apply in person for children under 16.

By the time you gather the necessarily paperwork, get passport photos taken, and wait for the passport to process, your baby may not exactly be a newborn anymore! Unless you’re driving to Mexico or Canada, you may want to hold off on making plans to travel internationally with your newborn baby.

FAQ: Does my Newborn Need a Passport?

Still confused? Don’t worry — I’ve compiled a brief list of easy-to-read FAQs to help you navigate your own specific travel question for taking a trip with your newborn. If you’re unsure, read on:

Travel SituationDoes my newborn need a passport to travel?
Are you flying internationally (anywhere in the world)?Yes, your newborn will need a passport to travel.
Are you driving (or traveling by sea) internationally between the U.S. and Mexico?No, your newborn does not need a passport. Bring their birth certificate. (source)
Are you driving (or traveling by sea) internationally between the U.S. and Canada?No, your newborn does not need a passport. Bring their birth certificate. (source)
Are you traveling (by any sort of transport) within the United States?No, your newborn does not need a passport — no U.S. citizen needs a passport to travel within the United States.
Are you traveling to a U.S. territory (Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, etc.)?No, your newborn does not need a passport — No U.S. citizens need a passport to travel to U.S. territories.*

*I am putting asterisk here because technically U.S. citizens don’t need a passport to fly to U.S. territories, but you’ll notice that it’s not quite worded that way on some of the government and travel websites. I personally would never attempt to fly somewhere without a passport.

Traveling Internationally Between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico with a Newborn

Because it can take some time to receive your baby’s first passport, it’s important to keep in mind a couple of exceptions just in case they apply to your family’s situation.

Please note that your newborn does not need a passport to go to Mexico or Canada, as long as you are driving (or traveling by sea) and not flying.

So if you have a pressing occasion in either of these countries and cannot wait for a newborn passport to process, don’t worry! You’re allowed to drive there with just your baby’s birth certificate in hand.

How to Get a Passport for Your Newborn

I recommend getting a passport as soon as possible for your baby if you plan on traveling together as a family. For minors (children under 16), you have to go in person with your partner to apply for your baby’s passport. Their passport will be valid for 5 years.

You can find your nearest passport office here. Some require you to make an appointment, while others have walk-in availability. When you visit the passport office in person, you’ll need to bring:

  • Form DS-11 filled out
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Photocopy of evidence of U.S. citizenship
  • Proof of parental relationship to your child
  • Identification for the parents
  • Photocopy of identification
  • Parental consent (if one parent is not present)
  • Photo
  • Payment

You can check the most recent processing times on the State Department website here to get an idea of how long it’s going to take to receive your child’s passport in the mail.

Review all of the important details and updates on the State Department website for applying for a passport for minors. Remember that you cannot submit a mail-in or online application for children under 16.

How to Take a Passport Photo for Your Newborn at Home

When I was getting my baby’s first passports (U.S. and Canada), I remember being nervous about the passport office not accepting my newborn’s photos. I had heard from other parents that they are very picky about the photos, and that photos need to fit the specifications perfectly.

That may be the case, but I can tell you that in my experience, taking a photo with my iPhone at home produced a far better photo (and experience for my baby!) than we had getting them down “professionally.” Here’s why…

Getting my baby’s first passport photo taken at a passport photo shop (awkward experience!)

Why you might not want a professional photo taken for your infant

We took my son to a professional passport photographer for his Canadian passport photo when he was just about 4 or 5 weeks old.

My son sat in my lap face out, and the photographer slid a large white piece of paper behind his back (against my chest). It was hilarious but super awkward.

He was just a little lump so his head was slumped a bit to the side, his eyes were barely open, and the photographer had to photoshop his shirt to make it darker. It was a terrible photo! And not the most pleasant experience.

Once I saw the result, which I’d paid around 20 dollars for (!!), I knew that I could do just as well, if not better, myself at home with my iPhone.

How to Take a Good Infant Passport Photo at Home

For my son’s U.S. passport, I decided to take the picture myself. No, I’m not a professional photographer and I didn’t use a nice camera (just my iPhone).

I laid out a white sheet on the floor, laid my son down on it (wearing a dark color onesie), and took a bunch of photos of him, making sure that there weren’t any dark shadows on the sheet or on his face.

I chose one to use for his passport where his eyes were open, mouth closed, with no shadows, and where he was facing straight-on. I cropped it right on my phone and made sure it was nice and bright.

I printed it out at a local convenience store, and it was accepted by the passport office with no problem whatsoever (actually, my photo was much much better than the one we had professionally done, in my opinion!).

Good luck and happy travels with your baby 🙂


Brittany is a Wayfaring Human who loves to adventure with her husband and son. When she's not having adventures, she's taking pictures of them and writing about them.

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