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Top Five Things You Should Know About Passports for Children

Top Five Things You Should Know About Passports for Children

With the holidays fast approaching, and with parents starting to give thought to visiting relatives and planning winter getaways, it’s a good time to revisit the basic points about passport requirements for children.   Here are the top five things Canadians should to know:

1. Children  who travel need a Canadian passport

Back in January of 2007, Passport Canada imposed a number of rules pertaining to passports, which included specific provisions applicable to children.  Specifically:

• All Canadians entering the U.S. by air – including children whether accompanied by a parent or not  – must have a valid Canadian passport.   For these purposes, a “child” is anyone aged three to 16, while an “infant” is anyone under age three.

• As with passports for adults, any child or infant who is a Canadian citizen is eligible to apply; once issued, the passport is good for five years for children, and three years for infants.  

• Children need their own passports to travel abroad (i.e. non-U.S. destinations), even if accompanied by a parent.  

• Children who are not travelling with both parents should carry a “Letter of Consent” which states that both parents agree to the child travelling.   (Although this is not a strict legal requirement, it serves to facilitate a child’s entry into another country).

(As an interesting aside, note that effective 2012, Canadians will have the option of applying for a 10-year passport, and also for an electronic / biometric passports, which will feature electronic chip technology, as well as hidden digital photos, holographic images, and a government signature).

2.  Passport photos

Passport photos for child applications must show the child’s head and shoulders, and must be taken by a professional photographer.
In situations involving infants who need to be held, the parents’ hands and arms may not show in the photo.   Passport Canada is not strict as to an infant’s facial expression on a passport photo, i.e. the infant’s mouth may be open or closed.

3.  The need for children’s passports is dispensed with in some cases

Strictly speaking, children under the age of 15 years are permitted to cross the U.S. border (whether by land or water) without a passport, but must show proof of citizenship (i.e. an original or copy of a Birth Certificate, or an original Canadian citizenship card).  However, children who travel by air must show a passport.
Also, Canadian citizens 18 years of age and under who are travelling with a school or other organized group, under adult supervision and with parental/guardian consent may also present proof of citizenship alone.

4.  Children of separated parents

As a means of preventing child abduction in situations of family discord, the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Customs and Border Protection Office have certain additional requirements in connection with travel by children of separated parents, when in the company of only one of those parents.
Specifically, the parent with whom the child travels must provide a Notarized Letter of Permission, which is evidence of his or her entitlement to travel with the child.   This letter must include complete contact information for all parents or legal guardians.

5. Renewal

A child’s passport may be renewed up to 12 months before it expires.   Although there is a simplified renewal process for passports issued to adults, it does not apply to passports for children.   Instead, the renewal of a child’s passport requires proof of Canadian citizenship (consisting of either a “Birth Certificate”, or “Certificate of Birth” which has been issued by a provincial/territorial authority in Canada).  If available, a long-form Birth Certificate (which lists both parents) should be presented.

If there is an existing Canadian passport for the child, it must also be provided, together with a certificate of identity or refugee travel document (if applicable).  
If the child’s current passport expires more than 12 months from the date that the application is being made, a written explanation for the early renewal application must be provided.
Note that both the application process and the renewal process take time, and prudent parents must plan accordingly, so that the child’s passport is in hand long before the anticipated trip departure date.

For further information, visit the Passport Canada website at: http://www.ppt.gc.ca/index.aspx