TIPS: U.S. Passports for Teens – Just when you get the hang of international travel with children, you turn around to suddenly face the prospect of travel with teens. Your daughter can nearly look you in the eye. Your son begins to ask details about the next trip you never had to explain before (or defend) as Chief Family Travel Officer. But time is flying. Before you know it, they’ll be out the door on adventures without you–or perhaps, your high-schooler is already preparing to study abroad?
In any case, there may be changes ahead where your teenager’s passport is concerned, and if there’s a new passport application or renewal on the horizon, you’ll want to be clear on them. Here’s an overview…
Tweens and teens getting U.S. Passports:
For “tweens” and young teens getting a U.S. passport or renewing one, these “child passports” are only valid for 5 years (ugh!) — and technically only 4.5 years when you consider that most countries don’t allow entry with fewer than 6 months’ validity on your current passport. (Remember this when booking your next trip abroad!)
And for these child passports, both parents or guardians must authorize the issuance of the child’s passport, generally by both parents appearing in person with the child. If not, you must submit a signed and notarized letter of consent from the absent parent or other eligible documents with the application. (You can see all requirements for kids under 16 here or follow this link to the official consent form.)
But all of this changes once the child turns 16 years.
Teens 15, 16 and 17 years getting U.S. Passports:
If you’ve got a 15-year-old in the house, you may want to think hard about the timing of your travels and whether or not you can postpone that next passport application until after that 16th birthday. Once kids turn 16 years, they receive an adult passport instead. The difference? Just like yours, that grown-up version is valid for 10 years instead of a mere 5. (And for only $30 more.)
The process of applying for a passport for kids 16 years and older is a bit simpler, too. As long as the teenager has proof that at least one parent is aware of the passport application, both parents—and possibly even either parent—needn’t be present when the teen applies for the passport in person.
The TSA accepts proof of “parental awareness” in this case as either:
- One parent appears with the teen when applying for the passport in person and signs the from DS-11 in front of the agent assisting.
- A signed, notarized statement of consent for the teen to apply for the passport from at least one parent or legal guardian is included with the application. In this case a photocopy of the consenting adult’s photo ID should also be included.
For more details, follow this link to information from Travel.State.gov.
What comes next?
Once the teen receives a full 10-year adult U.S. passport, future passports are renewable by mail.
More posts to help planning travel with teens:
Reader note: An earlier version of this post first appeared September 13, 2018. It has since been revised and updated.