Teenagers are always on the go… and teens who plan to travel outside the US will need to make sure they have a valid passport! The teenage years are all about the transition from childhood to adulthood, and that holds true for passports, as well. The US State Department issues minor passports to children up to age 15, and adult passports to teens starting at age 16. Read on to learn more about the special procedures to obtain a passport for your teen.
Teens Under Age 16
Until your teen’s 16th birthday, he or she is considered a child in the eyes of the State Department. Teens age 15 and younger are issued minor passports. These passports are valid for just 5 years, and cannot be renewed. Minor applicants are always required to appear in person in front of a Passport Acceptance Agent.
Minor passports require that both parents (or all legal guardians) give consent for the issuance of the passport. The easiest way to do this is to have both parents go with the child to the Passport Acceptance Facility. If you aren’t able to have both parents go to apply for the passport, at least one parent needs to go in person, and the other parent can sign and notarize Form DS-3053, the Statement of Consent. The parent who doesn’t go to the Passport Acceptance Facility will also need to provide a photocopy of his passport or the front and back of his driver’s license. (Having custody issues or trouble getting your child’s other parent to provide consent? Stay tuned, we have an article coming up soon about how to deal with tricky family situations when applying for a child’s passport.)
Teens Age 16-17
That sweet sixteenth birthday is a big one… not only is your child now old enough to drive a car, she’s old enough to get her first adult passport! The US State Department issues adult passports valid for 10 years to applicants age 16 and older. Even if your teen was issued a minor passport, he will need to follow the procedure for a first time adult passport. Your teen will need to appear in person at a Passport Acceptance Agent to apply for the passport.
Although 16 and 17 year olds are eligible for an adult passport, they still aren’t legal adults. The State Department requires that these teen applicants demonstrate “parental awareness” of their passport request. This can be done by having a parent accompany the teen to the passport acceptance facility, or by submitting a letter authorizing the issuance of a passport and a copy of the parent’s ID.
Under State Department rules, only one parent needs to show “parental awareness” by signing a letter or going in person with the teen, but some Passport Acceptance Agents are reluctant to approve an application unless they have proof of parental awareness of both parents. To prevent any delays, we recommend that both parents sign a letter approving the issuance of a passport to their 16 or 17 year old.
Teen applicants will also need to show photo identification when applying for a passport. A driver’s license, learner’s permit, or a previous US passport (even if expired) can be used as identification. If your teen doesn’t have a previous passport or a state-issued ID, they’ll need to submit at least two forms of secondary identification, one of which must be a photo ID.
Teens Age 18 or Older
Once your teen turns 18, obtaining a passport becomes much simpler! At age 18, your teen is now legally an adult, and is able to apply for a passport entirely on their own.