One of the first things you should check before moving overseas with your children is that everyone has a valid passport. Obtaining a new or renewed passport for a child can take several weeks, so it’s worth getting it out of the way as early as possible. Some aspects of emigrating might cause a small inconvenience if delayed or forgotten, but your children being unable to travel will bring your plans to an abrupt halt!
Even if you aren’t sure that you want to emigrate, it’s worth getting a passport for your child as soon as possible. According to Helen Maffini, Director of Family Travel Scoop, there’s no time to waste: ‘Nearly all countries now require babies and toddlers to have their own passports. Apply as soon as your child is born and you have birth documentation. You never know when you may need the passport and there can be unexpected delays with documents.’
You can apply for a child passport for your baby or any child under the age of 16 for whom you have legal ‘parental responsibility’. There are special rules if you adopted your child, are fostering them, or if they were born through assisted reproduction or surrogacy. You can find out more about getting a child passport on the government’s website.
Once your child is sixteen, or if their application is made within a few weeks before they become sixteen, they will need to apply for an adult 10-year passport instead. A sixteen year-old does not need parental consent to apply for an adult passport.
You can add up to nine months of the remaining validity of your current passport to your new one, so there is no need to wait for the expiry date to pass before applying for child passport renewal.
As a parent you’re probably well aware of the difficulty of getting a baby or young infant to sit still. You’ll be relieved to know that the rules governing acceptable passport photos for babies and young infants are more lax than for adult passports. However, there are still guidelines that must be followed. When acquiring photos for a baby passport, keep in mind that:
‘Prepare your child for getting a photo beforehand. Practice with them at home,’ Helen advises. ‘Many countries do not allow people to smile in their passport photos so check this out! We ran into this issue with our toddler at the time. Her whole life she has been asked to smile in photos, but suddenly we wanted no smile!’
While in the UK children under six are not required to look directly at the camera or hold a neutral facial expression, the story highlights just how important it is to plan in advance. Helen remembers, ‘It took over 50 shots to get one because she would automatically smile as soon as the camera snapped! Luckily we had a patient photographer!’
Passports for children still require photos to be 35mm wide by 45mm tall, taken in front of a cream or light grey background.
The official government website states that it takes three weeks to process an application for a child passport. However, delays can happen – particularly if the information on the form was incorrect or did not meet the required criteria. A quick look on parenting forums shows that waiting times in excess of six weeks are not rare, so it is best to get your passports sorted a long time before you need them. If your move is fast approaching, consider using the more expensive Fast Track application option, which speeds up the process.
It’s also worth taking the schedule of your countersignatory into account, as subsequent checks to verify your child’s details will be sent to them at their place of work. If you have asked your child’s teacher to act as countersignatory and the application is being processed during the school holidays, it could be several weeks before they are able to get the letter and respond, delaying your passports and, potentially, your move.
It might not be just a passport you need in order to travel with your children. If you are a single parent, or travelling without your partner, you may need to get proof that you have their consent to take your children abroad. According to Helen, ‘Most government websites have a form you can print off for free but you sometimes may need to have this signed by a Justice of the Peace or other official.’ It’s always best to take the precaution, as not doing so could cause havoc for your plans. ‘You do not want to arrive at your destination and not be let in because they ask for this. I have been asked for this twice in all my many, many travels so it is not common but it does happen!’
Making sure everyone is able to travel is clearly a vital part of the emigration process. Sorting out your baby or child passports as soon as possible allows you to focus on the other things to consider when relocating overseas. Tick it off the list early and you can focus on the fun part – organising an exciting new future for you and your children abroad.
A final tip from Helen; getting a baby passport may be a complicated process, but there is fun to be had too. ‘Toddlers love to look at their own passports. Teach them to handle them carefully and treat them as an important document. Reminisce about the places you have been by looking at the different stamps.’ A well-travelled passport isn’t just a piece of official documentation, it’s a valuable keepsake.
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