Have Docs, Will TravelA travel agent friend of mine likes to tell us stories of traveling families. They sat in front of her desk and she explained passport requirements.  “Everyone needs a passport. Even the children. It doesn’t matter how old you are, every Canadian traveler needs a passport.”

“Oh yes, we know. Don’t worry” they told her.  Her travel agent senses tingled. They weren’t paying attention, and visions of angry letters from disgruntled travelers danced in her head.  She re-iterated, indicating the children: “If they don’t have passports, you’ll have to get them.”  “Sure, sure” they reassured her. “Everyone, yes.” The papers she would give them  spelled it out again.

And yet, the angry letter she had feared would come, demanding a refund because of the huge expense and inconvenience they had faced at the airport when they showed up at the airport with no passport for their baby.  Once it came in the form of a panicked phone call from the security gate. In each case the choice would be the same: rush downtown and pay the price for an emergency passport, plus the airline change fee and start your vacation two days later; find someone to watch your baby and go without her; or cancel your trip and eat the cost. As my friend puts it: “Insurance doesn’t cover stupid.”

Getting a passport is a hassle, but it is nothing compared to not having one!

The process for applying for a child’s (i.e. under 16 years old) passport is not very different from that of an adult. This information is specific to a Canadian child traveling with both his or her Canadian birth parents. If your situation is different, the forms and requirements may be different, please contact Passport Canada for more information. Keep in mind children traveling with one parent often need permission from the other parent too.

1) Fill out the application form.

To apply for a passport on behalf of a child, you must be the custodial parent or legal guardian.Canadian passport for children

2) Get passport pictures taken. (They come in pairs.)

Not everywhere will take children’s passport photos, because the requirements are strict and it can be difficult to get a child to cooperate (not your angel, other kids!) So call ahead to make sure.  After a lifetime of encouraging your child to smile for the camera, have fun getting a photo with a solemn face, as is required by the government.

3) Get a guarantor.

The application form and one of the photos must be signed by a guarantor. This person must meet certain requirements, including having known the child for a minimum of two years. If your little one hasn’t been alive that long, the guarantor needs to have known you or the child’s other parent that long.

4) Find your child’s birth certificate.

Hopefully you have the long form version that names both parents. This can act as both the proof of citizenship and proof of parentage that are required. You need to give them the original, but they will give it back. Don’t have the long form birth certificate? The government website spells out what you will need for proof of citizenship and proof of parentage.

5) Bundle it up with any other applicable documentation

Namely:  “Any valid Canadian passport or travel document issued in the name of a child; Proof of legal guardianship, if applicable; and All documents that refer to custody of, mobility of, or access to the child.”

6) Take it down to the local passport agency, or send it to Passport Canada.

If you are sending it, it is a good idea to send it registered mail or by courier.

7) Get your credit card ready.

They also accept debit (in person only), certified cheque or money order. $57 plus extra fees if you require expedited service.

Once the passport comes in, have your child sign the signature block only if he is over 11 and a signature appears on page two of the passport. If he is younger, and /or there is no signature on the second page, leave it blank. The passport will be valid up to five years, depending on how old your child is now.

That’s it, you’re done! Nothing left to do but pack!

This information was correct and current as of the writing (November 2014), but things change, so please be sure to check with Passport Canada!