Being a mom of an only and no family in town, we whole-heartedly embrace the motto, “Have kid, will travel,” which now means taking the shorty with us on vacation overseas.
FUN! You think.
LET’S DO IT! You think.
And then reality sets in…
Wait, she needs a passport. How do I get a passport for her? She doesn’t any means of identification other than her school ID when she was 2 and I think that was just for play. How long does it take to get a new passport? Below I’ll share what I learned about getting a child’s passport in Dallas. By child, I mean a minor under the age of 16. It may be different where you live, but this was our experience.
One of the most important things you need to be prepared for is that you have to apply for your child’s passport IN PERSON, with BOTH parents. If having both parents together during a work day can be a seemingly insurmountable feat – especially for us — you can use a parental consent form (Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent) but know that it has to be notarized, so factor in that major inconvenience as well. I totally get it. We don’t want people stealing children and leaving the country with them, but if you’re a last minute planner, this will cause you some additional grief.
You will also need:
- Your child’s birth certificate, previous US Passport, or other evidence of US Citizenship
- Proof that you are the parent. Your child’s birth certificate can cover this. If you’ve adopted your child, you’ll need the adoption decree. If you’re divorced, you’ll need the divorce/custody decree. These need to be original copies. This meant another trip to the lock box for me for the original birth certificate.
- Passport photo – I always go to FedEx/Kinko’s for this. I’m sure there are other places though. It needs to be 2×2 inches and in color.
- A copy of your driver’s license or valid passport to prove you’re a US Citizen and the actual parent
- Completed forms (this one to print and complete or this one to complete online and print)
Put it all in an envelope, guard it with your life, and now you’re ready to go to the passport agency, right?
IMPORTANT: There are TWO passport agencies in Downtown Dallas. The following information is about the one that comes up in online search results first, and located in the Earle Cabell building (not to be confused with Earl Campbell the ex-football player turned sausage tycoon). There are many other regular passport agencies around DFW, (here’s a link for other agencies in Dallas) however the passport agency in the Earle Cabell building can turn around passports in as little as 5 days (they say…). The other offices, I’m told, are not expedited offices so it will take much longer through them.
“Expedited” you say? Well, that means a couple of things. Firstly, if you can find and use the other agency office on Main Street (or elsewhere), it’ll take up to 8 weeks for your passport to arrive. Secondly, there’s a price for the speedy service. If you use the Earle Cabell building expedited Passport Service, you will pay an additional fee of $60 per passport. We learned about this distinction AFTER we miraculously aligned schedules and were already present (with back-up notarized documents too) for our appointment. We decided to stay put, give Uncle Sam his convenience fee, and check this glorious event off our list.
The Dallas Passport Agency we used is located at 1100 Commerce St, Suite 1120, Dallas, TX 75242. There’s a parking lot on the side of this building but be sure to have cash with you to pay for it.
Before you go though, call the number to make an appointment, 877-487-2778. I was able to get an appointment that very same day and it was during Spring Break so I have to think you can get in pretty quickly at other times during the year as well. Keep your confirmation number with you. You’ll need it to get into your appointment, although if you forget you can use your social security number. Personally, the fewer people I tell my social security number to, the better.
Whatever time your appointment is, make sure to arrive 15 minutes early. You’ll have to pass through security and a metal detector screening for the federal building. Depending on what’s going on that day and time, you may have to wait a little while in line.
When you arrive on the 11th floor, you’ll check in with the officer using your appointment confirmation. Take a seat in the big room with the chairs and wait to be called up to a window that looks just like a bank teller.
Your first window meeting will be to make sure you have all your necessary paperwork complete and in order. I thought this was all we had to do and was high-fiving the hubs that it went so fast, but then I realized we were just visiting the “get your stuff together” window. The passport specialist at the prep window explained that since this was the expedited office, you will come back to pick up your passports from here — or you have the option to have them mailed to you.
You’ll also be assigned a new number at this window. After you get it, go sit back down and wait for your number to be called again for another bank teller-like encounter.
When your new number is called, the next passport specialist will review all your documents and take them from you. It’s important at this expedited office that you have your travel confirmation with you and printed out on paper. We didn’t, but were able to forward it to her via email. She also talked us out of having the passports mailed to us as they could easily be stolen from your mailbox (Can you imagine the hot mess that would cause?), and she encouraged us to pick them up. Since the hubs works in downtown Dallas, we opted for pick-up. The good news is that both parents do NOT have to be present to pick-up the passports.
If you choose pick-up, the specialist will also give you an appointment day and hour to come back to pick your passports. She explained to us that you can come back during that time and you’ll wait for your name to be called, However, the agency will hold your passport for 2 weeks, so you can actually just pop in at another time that’s more convenient if the pickup time they assign you doesn’t work to your schedule.
Seems pretty routine, although when the hubs went to get ours a day after our pick-up appointment, the passports weren’t ready because they were missing the travel details. You really need to have them printed out to attach to the paperwork. He provided those details again on paper this time, and went back a week later to get the finished passports without incident. I don’t think you have to have your travel arrangements if you visit a non-expedited office, but I haven’t tested that theory. If you’ve made your flight arrangements, I would bring them just in case.
Keep in mind that your child’s passport will expire before yours will. A child’s passport is good for only 5 years, yours is good for 10. If you plan ahead, your passport can be renewed via mail if it is not damaged, altered, or the information is the same.
Because passports are a means of identity, the process to obtain one can be arduous but necessary. I recommend that if possible, initiate the passport process several months in advance so that if hiccups happen, it won’t cause unnecessary stress as your trip gets closer.