How to Get a Passport in Champaign-Urbana: Local Tips and Tricks
Getting a passport is a great investment for kids and parents alike.
For kids, there are more wrinkles involved than meets the eye. 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.
We’re here to give you up-to-date information about how to get your child’s passport in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding region. It’s a chore, but one that will pay off for you and your family.
Every minor regardless of age traveling via air to another country must have a valid passport. Passports stay valid for minors under 16 for five years.
The pandemic created a backlog of passport application processing, sometimes taking up to 12 weeks; Google it and see the headlines, especially in summer 2023. Here’s the good news: as of early 2024, applications have returned to their pre-2020 turnaround windows.
The State Department says it generally takes 4-6 weeks to receive your passport after submitting the application — although ours came earlier than that. We took our children to get their passports right before New Year’s Day, and we had them back in less than four weeks.
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.
NOTE: this article does not cover what you need to do if you need a passport in 14 days or less for emergency travel. Most often, that requires a trip to a U.S. Passport Agency; the nearest passport agency to Champaign-Urbana is in Chicago.
Before we walk you through the process of getting a passport in the Champaign-Urbana area, here are a few tips:
1) Both parents need to be present at a passport appointment when submitting an application. (Of course, there are exceptions and forms can be filled out.)
2) Before you start: Plan ahead, even longer than you think necessary. Why? One example: We signed our child up for a youth trip with her school, and they wanted to have her passport number four months in advance of travel.
3) At the age of 16, children are able to apply for an adult passport, which is valid for 10 years. This is a great thing to do for your child before they leave home! At this age an applicant has to show proof of “parental awareness,” but one parent is required. As this is an adult passport, it costs $130.
4) Make photocopies of EVERYTHING. One thing we didn’t know — you will surrender your child’s birth certificate when you submit the application. They will mail it back, but in the meantime you will want to have a copy of it. In our experience, we received the new passport before the birth certificates.
5) For the purposes of this article we only talk about passport books. However, for some families a passport card might be desirable — and is a budget-friendly option.
6) We put this article together as a service. Information was accurate as of January 2024. Things change! When in doubt, always check with the direct source.
Step 1: Decide Where and When You Will Submit Your Passport Application
This is probably the biggest, newest development in the passport process since 2020: you can now make an appointment (highly recommended!) to submit a passport application.
In fact, it makes the process that much more smooth. (Some facilities might take limited walk-ins; call ahead). As of January 2024, area post offices that serve as passport acceptance facilities include: Champaign (Mattis location), Urbana (Tatman Court location), Savoy, Tuscola, Gibson City, Paxton, LeRoy, Clinton, and Danville (Hazel Street location). In Monticello, the lone location is the Piatt County Circuit Clerk.
The appointments are available via an online tool in 15-minute increments, and generally you will be asked to reserve more than one appointment time for multiple kids. The post offices even offer Saturday appointments, but times vary greatly. And Saturday appointments will fill up quickly.
- It was our experience that appointments were readily available in a reasonable timeframe.
- We did our appointments at the main Champaign post office on Mattis Avenue. It was highly efficient.
- Most post offices will do photos for an extra fee, but we decided not to do this.
Step 2: The Photos
The State Department has made it that much easier to successfully create a do-it-yourself passport photo with detailed tips and instructions at its website. You can use an online resource such as epassportphoto.com, which is a great service that provides feedback on your photos and budget-friendly too. They are free if you print out the photos on your own printer; you could also send them to print at a local store. You can also use Canva or other online photo tools.
However, if you’re like me and want someone else to take the passport photos, you can get them at many places in town (drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS especially). A personal store recommendation: the CVS at Green Street and Neil in Champaign. (If you have a CVS card, you can use your coupons on photos.) Some AAA memberships include discounts on passport photos, if you visit the new AAA branch in Champaign at 410 W Town Center Blvd.
All Champaign County post offices offer passport photo services, as we mentioned above.
Be extra careful when doing photos of infants and young children. Those are the trickiest, as no other person can be in the photos, they must have a white background, and the child must be looking at the camera.
Step 2: The Application Forms
When you’ve got three kids like I do, the last thing you want to do is stand in the 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. This is a huge time saver.
Step 3: Gather Your Documents and Be Prepared
- Evidence of U.S. Citizenship: typically a birth certificate. This must be an “original copy” meaning it is certified with a seal.
- If you don’t have a certified copy of you/your child’s birth certificate, you will need to request one. Most counties now have the ability to request them online; there is typically a fee regardless of how you receive it.
- For those born in Champaign County, you can request a new birth certificate online, in person, or by mail. As of January 2024, the base price for a new birth certificate is $21, with $11 for each additional copy. The Champaign County Clerk’s Office is at 1776 E. Washington Street in Urbana.
- Here is a link to a handy directory of all county clerk websites in Illinois.
- Photo Identification: For a child’s application, parents will need to have valid photo identification to present 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. If the parent/guardian already has a valid passport, that works.
- Each child’s application is treated individually, so if you are doing applications for multiple children, make sure to have enough photocopies of each photo ID.
- Parental Consent: Both parents/guardians “should” 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 additional documents that must be filled out for the child’s application. Written authorization from the parent or guardian that cannot appear in person must be signed within 90 days before you submit the child’s application. More information on the issue of parental consent is available online HERE.
- Passport Photo: one photo, in color, 2 inches by 2 inches.
- Application Form: fill out online and print to save time when you go in.
The State Department has a good online resource for parents to help with this process.
Step 4: Payments
It’s 2024, and many people don’t carry paper checks any more. However, the State Department will only accept payment with a check or money order. As of January 2024 the fee for a basic passport is $100 for a child 15 and under; $130 for anyone 16 and up. Be prepared and have your check/money order with you when you go to the passport acceptance facility.
While application fees always go to the Department of State, the execution fee must be paid separately to the passport acceptance facility. Some passport acceptance facilities will accept other forms of payment. The Post Office generally accepts any type of payment. As of January 2024, the acceptance fee is $35 per passport.
Step 5: After you submit
Track your passport status by signing up for online updates. (This is fairly new, we have used this service once.) Of course, this is completely optional.
Step 6: Arrival
Yay the passports have arrived! Once you get the passports sent to your home, adults should sign them. On a passport for a child under 16, a parent should print the child’s full name on the signature line. The parent should also sign their name next to the printed name of their child, and note their relation to their child (example: mother, father, or guardian).