Preparing for a trip abroad with a baby on board? Follow our simple steps to make sure you have your baby’s passport ready in time.
Applying for your baby’s first passport is a rite of passage (pardon the pun), and it can mean a couple of things. You’re either amazingly efficient and getting everything in order or you’re planning a trip abroad soon (you deserve a big hooray).
Added to the passport, you probably have plenty of other things to worry about before any trip abroad with a young baby. You might be debating whether to take or leave the car seat. Then there’s the buggy and whether to beg, borrow or buy a travel cot. Then you have the daily essentials to prepare. Not to mention the thought of preparing to clear customs with all of those powders and liquids – breastmilk anyone? So the passport needs to be the least of your worries.
When does my baby need a passport?
From birth, your baby will need a passport for any trip where you leave the UK. Their passport is valid for five years, so it’s worth bearing in mind whether any older siblings might need a renewal soon too (Gov.uk, 2018a).
How do I apply for my baby’s passport?
You can apply for a child’s passport online by printing off an application form and sending it to the passport office with photos and supporting documents. This is the cheapest option. Otherwise, you can apply by post and pay a little more (Gov.uk, 2018a). For current prices, see here.
To get an application form, you could contact the passport advice line, and they’ll post you one. Or you could pick up an application from your local post office – they also offer a passport ‘check and send’ service for a small additional fee (Gov.uk, 2018b).
What documents do I need to get their passport?
You will need:
- two suitable passport pics of your baby
- their full birth certificate, or adoption certificate (the one with their parents’ details on)
- proof your child has British nationality, e.g. British registration certificate or parent’s passport or birth certificates
- any valid passports they might have from different countries
- any court orders, e.g. describing parental responsibility or residency arrangements.
You’ll need original copies of all of these, rather than photocopies or laminated versions (Gov.uk, 2018c). If the docs aren’t in English or Welsh, you’ll need certified translations of them (Gov.uk, 2018c).
If you’re worried about not getting your documents back safely via ‘normal’ post, you can pay an extra £5 to get them sent back securely. You’ll need to select this service on your application if you’d like it (Gov.uk, 2018c).
How long before I travel do I need to apply for their passport?
The Passport Office states it should take three weeks to get a passport, or one week if you use the fast track service (Gov.uk, 2018d). But to be safe, and in case there are any queries with the application, it’s best to factor in a couple more weeks on top of this.
If you’re applying from outside the UK then different rules apply.
Last but not least. How on earth do I get my baby to pose for a passport photo?
You’ll need two identical passport sized pics of your little one, with one of the photos countersigned by someone you’ve known for two years who can identify your baby but isn’t a relative (Gov.uk, 2018e). More details on countersignatories can be found in the further information section below.
As for the picture… your baby will need to be looking at the camera, not smiling, with a cream/light grey background behind them, and no headwear or hair accessories (Gov.uk, 2018f). They must be standard photo booth sized pics rather than a cut down version of a larger photo (Gov.uk, 2018f).
If you’re at home, lay them on a light plain blanket on the floor, and make sure their head is in the centre of the shot.
For babies under one, you’ll be glad to know that mouth closed and eyes looking at the camera rules are waived. But for babies older than one year this is a strict rule so make sure of this.
Take a picture from a least 1.5 metres away, with no shadows, in clear focus. Taking it on your phone is fine, and then upload to an online passport pic service who can verify its suitability.
Otherwise, get a professional to do the hard work. You could go to your local chemists or photography studio nearby for a helping hand. Or you could ask around your parent friends and see what they did and whether they recommend anywhere locally.
Parents’ tips on how to take your baby’s passport photo
“I had no idea how I’d manage to capture a picture of Evie and found the whole thing quite amusing and ridiculous. A couple of mums in my NCT group recommended the chemist in the village and so I went with that.
I had to balance Evie on my knee on the stool in front of the camera and it took a few attempts to get it right, but I was confident the photographer knew what they were doing.
I look back at the pic now and giggle. She was a few months old, had barely slept and her hair was doing something crazy, but I love the pic all the same.” Cara, mum to two-year-old Evie.
“I was travelling with Johnnie when he was just six weeks old so needed to get a picture pronto and right first time, very soon after he was born. I found an online service that talked me through the steps and told me if the picture I’d taken was suitable there and then.
As if by magic, a few days later the set of four passport pics appeared on my doorstep as if I’d gone to a photobooth. So simple.” Andy, dad to Johnnie, 16 weeks.
This page was last reviewed in November 2018.
See the guidance notes on the government’s website for full step-by-step instructions.
You can apply online here.
Read more about the Post Office check and send service here.
Contact the passport advice line on 0300 222 0000 with details on opening hours here.
Read more about getting their picture countersigned here.
Read more about the one week Fast Track service here.
And about applying from outside the UK here, as different rules apply.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Gov.uk. (2018a) Get a passport for your child. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/get-a-child-passport [Accessed 16th October 2018]
Gov.uk. (2018b) Post office check and send service. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/how-the-post-office-check-and-send-service-works [Accessed 16th October 2018]
Gov.uk. (2018c) First child passport. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/get-a-child-passport/first-child-passport [Accessed 16th October 2018]
Gov.uk. (2018d) Apply online for a UK passport. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport [Accessed 16th October 2018]
Gov.uk. (2018e) Countersigning passport applications. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/countersigning-passport-applications [Accessed 16th October 2018]
Gov.uk. (2018f) HMPO Applying for your passport guidance. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/725206/6.4270_HMPO_Applying_for_your_Passport_Guidance_v24.pdf [Accessed 16th October 2018]