Going on a holiday is very beneficial for kids as it gives them the opportunity to learn about new things, enjoy the great outdoors, augment whatever they are learning in school, and discover more about themselves through the things or activities that they are interested in. More importantly, going on a trip strengthens the bond of the family which can also help in the enhancement of children’s social and emotional wellbeing. As beneficial as going on a trip is to the development of children, one crucial thing remains – do they need to have their passports?
A Look at Passports
Each country has specific laws that govern the conduct of its citizens. They also have natural resources, public infrastructure, and other things that are designed and built specifically for the enjoyment of its residents and nationals. This means that only the people of that nation have the inherent right to all of the things that are present in that particular country.
It’s actually the same as having our home. In our house, only family members get to use the bedroom, the bathroom, and all the amenities that we have in our house. We can do almost anything inside our property as long as we don’t hurt each other. This also means that we have rules for every member of the family to comply with. For example, we can have curfews for our children or even rules about littering and the management of wastes. We can set rules about when and how to use the swimming pool and all such stuff.
Technically, our home is a reflection of our country but in a much bigger scale. We formulate rules for everyone in the house to follow in very much the same way as our country have laws for everyone to follow and adhere to.
Now, when people from other countries visit our country, they must show a valid identification first in the same way as we would like our visitors to introduce themselves or show us a form of identification card before we let them in into our home; otherwise, they will be trespassing. For example, a police detective in a suit will show us his or her badge before we let them into our house.
In like manner, when we visit another country, we must show them who we are and where we come from. The whole idea about passports therefore, is to establish the identity of a person before he or she is allowed to enter another country. It typically contains your name, your date and place of birth, your signature, your photograph, and any other information that will help establish your identity. If you are going to look at the word passport, it comes with two distinct words, pass and port. The port is the point of entry into a particular country. So, passport is essentially passing through the port.
When Do I Need a Passport?
If you are only going to travel within the country, you don’t need to bring your passport with you. For example, you are a resident of Florida and you’ll be heading to the Yellowstone National Park, you don’t need to bring a passport.
However, if you do intend to visit another country, then you and everyone else traveling with you, including your kids, will need to present your passport at the point of entry in that country. For instance, if you decide to head to the UK, you will need to present your passport upon your arrival at Heathrow or any other airport in the UK that have international flights. Your passport is what gives the immigration authorities in the UK an idea of who you are.
Now, don’t think that since you already have a passport you are automatically granted entry into the country. Some countries require a visa which is often stamped into a page in your passport. The visa is what actually grants you to enter the country and stay there for a certain period of time. There are many types of visas often depending on the purpose of your travel. There are work visas, tourist visas, and even student visas. The important thing to remember is that your passport establishes your identity and your visa is what grants you entry into a country. That is why it is always advised to check the visa requirements in the country you’re visiting. If you’re a holder of a US passport and you want to visit the UK for a holiday, you won’t need a visa for this. Your passport should suffice.
So, Do My Kids Need a Passport?
Based on what we have been discussing so far, if you intend to travel within the United States or within your country, you and your children don’t need a passport. However, if you intend to travel overseas or to another country, having a passport is a must, even for children.
In the United States, there is a growing concern about international child abductions not by syndicates but rather by one parent especially those who are undergoing turbulent times in their marriage. As such, the US State Department has issued a law that requires the signature of both parents or legal guardians on the passport application of children below the age of 16 years old. If the child already has a passport and the couple are going through rough times, there’s no preventing one spouse from taking their child with him or her and leave the country.
In applying for a passport, you need to take note of the following.
If your child is below 16 years old
First you need to fill out the DS-11 Form from the State Department and provide proof of your US citizenship. These can include your valid and undamaged US passport, a certificate of citizenship, a duly authenticated US birth certificate, or a consular certification of birth if your child was born overseas. You will also need to submit documentation that you are, indeed, the parent or parents or legal guardians of the child passport application. You can present your US birth certificate, foreign birth certificate, divorce or child custody decree, or even adoption decree. You will also need to present valid identification cards as well as submit a photocopy of these cards.
One very important thing to remember is to present to the processing officer proof of parental consent. The best way to do this is for both of you (Mom and Dad) to accompany your child in person during the passport application process. However, if this is not possible, such as when you have sole custody and legal authority over your child, then you must submit proof of this stature. If your partner simply cannot go with you because he or she is abroad, at work, or physically impossible to do so, then you need to fill out the Statement of Consent form (DS-3053) and have this duly notarized. The absent parent must accomplish and sign the Form in the presence of the certified notary public and then submit a photocopy of the ID (front and back) that he or she presented to the notary public. If one parent cannot be located, you need to accomplish Form DS-5525. If neither parent are unable to accompany the child, then a notarized statement from both parents must be presented by the person applying for the child’s passport.
If your child is between the ages of 16 and 17 years
Children between 16 and 17 years old can already apply for a US passport on their own. However, it is a must that at least one parent should accompany the applicant when they apply in person. This proves that the parent is fully aware his or her son or daughter is applying for a passport. If in case the parent is unable to accompany his or her child during the passport application process, it is crucial to give the child a signed statement showing consent or approval to let the child apply for his or her passport. In such instances, the document is accompanied by a photocopy of the identification card of the consenting parent.
US passports have certain validities. For the passport of children below 16 years old, this is usually 5 years. For children 16 to 17 years old, their passport validity is already 10 years. As parents it is a must that we take note of the validity of our children’s passports. Normally, we can apply for their renewal within several months before the expiration date as the renewal process can take a while.
Some countries require the passport to still have at least 6 months of validity in order to allow the passport-holder into the country. For example, if your passport expires on June 30, 2017, you will typically be granted entry to these countries not later than December 30, 2016.
Traveling to another country with the whole family can be a great thing for children’s development. Make sure you have everyone’s passport ready and fully valid even before making your travel arrangements.