When my parents decided to take us on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas last year to celebrate my dad’s birthday, we were super excited. But in addition to the typical packing prep, we had more to do; we needed to have passports, even for the children. And so we became “experts” on getting children a passport in Champaign-Urbana.
Getting a passport for an adult is not that big of an inconvenience. For kids, there are lots more wrinkles involved. It takes some extra planning, as both parents/guardians must be present when submitting the application – as well as the child. Photos can be complicated, especially when you have an infant.
As the government is happy to tell you, every minor regardless of age traveling overseas must have a valid passport. And passports stay valid for minors under 16 for only five years. Getting passports for all three of my children was not fun. We soldiered through the process, and because I did that – you can learn from all my mistakes and do it a lot smoother!
Before you start: plan ahead. The State Department says it generally takes 4-6 weeks to receive your passport after submitting the application — although ours came earlier than that.
Expedited service is available; generally, you will receive your passport in three weeks, or sooner, if you can show an urgent need. Expedited service will cost an additional $60, plus any delivery costs.
Step 1: The Photos
You can get passport photos at many places in town (drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS especially), but not all places have employees who are knowledgable about rules regarding photos. Case in point: despite having the photos done by a drugstore, the photos of my then-infant were rejected because my hands were in them. So we had to re-do her photo, and we did it by putting the baby on the floor (on a sheet to get a blank background) to have a compliant photo with no one else in it. I’ve been told you could put a sheet over a car seat for the same effect.
My suggestion: call and see when the passport photo experts will be in the store. (My personal store recommendation: the CVS at Green Street and Neil; look online for coupons.)
If you want to do them at home using your own digital camera — and save some money — try epassportphoto.com. They respond to customer inquiries via social media, critiquing photos to make sure they are kosher and adhere to all the government specifications. They are also free if you print out the photos on your own printer, or there is a shipping cost involved.
(According to the Champaign County circuit clerk’s website, they are NOT taking photos at this time.)
Step 2: The Applications
When you’ve got three kids like I do, the last thing you want to do is stand in the courthouse or post office and fill out each application form by hand. Here’s one way to make the process easier: you can fill out the applications for NEW passports online, and print them out at home. Just don’t sign them.
Step 3: Gather Your Documents and Be Prepared
For children, you will need:
- Evidence of U.S. Citizenship: typically a birth certificate. And NO copies. Must be an original with registrar seal.
- Photo Identification: This is of the parent, and must be presented to the authorized agent, as well as a photocopy. A driver’s license is sufficient, but if issued by another state than where you are applying, you will need a second form of identification. Or a current passport if issued less than 15 years ago.
- Parental Consent: Both parents/guardians must appear in person with the minor and provide consent, authorizing passport issuance to the minor. If there are circumstances where there are only one parent/guardian or one cannot be located, there are exception forms.
- Passport Photo – one photo, in color, 2 inches by 2 inches. Here’s more information on photos.
- Application Form – for kids, you can fill out online and print to save time when you go in.
- Passport Fees – for kids, as of January 2019 for a basic passport, price is $115 ($80 for the passport and $35 execution fee). The $80 passport fee must be paid by check; some passport acceptance facilities will accept credit cards for the execution fees; call ahead and ask. While application fees always go to the Department of State, the execution fee must be paid separately to the passport acceptance facility. So that means be prepared to pay with two checks per child.
The State Department has a good online resource for parents to help with this process.
Step 4: Submission
It might be No. 4, but it could be our No. 1 tip: laws geared towards protecting children from being removed from the country illegally means getting a child a passport takes some extra planning. Passport applications for minors under age 16 must be submitted in person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility. The child and both parents/guardians must be present. If both parents/guardians cannot be present, see parental consent for additional document requirements.
Where do you find an authorized agency? Some post offices, but the hours for passport services do not always match post office business hours. In Champaign County, three post offices offer passport service:
Urbana (Tatman Court location, near Wal-Mart): Monday-Friday, 9:30a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Savoy (415 N. Dunlap Ave.) Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m – 4:00pm
Champaign (main post office, on North Mattis): Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
We submitted our passport applications at the County County Circuit Clerk Office in the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana. With hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, this is nice because they open early, but be sure to leave your cell phone in the car – not allowed into the courthouse. Here’s information from the Circuit Clerk website on passports.