One of the most important items to check off your travel to-do list is a valid passport. You’ll want to do this well in advance so there are no unexpected surprises when it’s finally time to fly! Did you know that the passport application process is different for teens ages 16 and 17 than it is for teens who are ages 12-15? This guide walks you through some of the most important information you need to know for both passport applications and renewals for teens and passport applications for minors.

hands holding U.S. passports up in front of a European city scene

Do I need a passport if under 18 traveling exclusively within the U.S.?

Great question! TSA does not require a passport or other government-issued photo ID in order to travel within the United States if you are under 18. If you use your driver’s license, keep in mind that starting on May 3rd, 2023, the TSA won’t accept non-compliant driver’s licenses. This means all travelers 18 years of age and older will need to show another form of federally accepted identification, like a US passport, in order to board domestic flights.

How do I submit a passport application for teens?

While most adults can submit an application for a passport in the mail, passport applications for teens need to be done in person.

The first step is to download Form DS-11 from the State Department website and fill it out. DON’T sign the application just yet though! You’ll need to sign it in person at the application center.

Next, it’s time to have your passport photo taken. We know that you want to look great for your passport photo so when you get ready to look your best, keep these certain photo policies in mind. Namely, you’ll need to keep long hair behind your shoulders and avoid big or flashy jewelry. If you wear glasses, you’ll be asked to remove them for your photo. While anyone can take your passport photo, UPS centers and drug stores like Walgreens and CVS offer passport photo services. This is the best way to ensure that your photo meets all of the official requirements.

Once you have that perfect passport photo, you’ll need a photocopy of your proof of identity and U.S. Citizenship documents. Most teens choose to use their birth certificate, but if you were born outside of the U.S., you can also use a Green Card.

Gather these materials and head to your nearest passport acceptance facility, which is usually a local USPS or county clerk office, to submit your passport application in person.

Do I need my parents’ permission to get a passport?

Even though you’ll be traveling without your parents, you still need their permission before you can hit the road. Parental awareness is required for teen passports. This means one parent or guardian must be present when you submit your application. The clerk or agent will ask that your parent or guardian sign your Form DS-11.

How much do passports cost?

The cost of a brand spanking new passport for under 16 years old is $80 for the application fee and $35 for the execution fee. This makes the grand total $115. 16 years old and older starts at $110. Note – there are additional rush fees and potentially application fees. A full chart of pricing can be found here. 

How do I get a passport if I’m younger than 16?

If you’re a teenager between the ages of 12 and 15, you’re considered a minor so the process is a little bit different. You’ll need to submit your completed passport application for minors in person at a passport acceptance facility. Here’s the big difference: both your parents or guardians must be present. Your parents need to prove parental relationship and provide parental consent. Passports for minors are valid for five years. Passports for teens ages 16 and older are valid for ten years.

Where exactly do I apply for my passport?

You’ll need to apply for your first passport from inside the United States. Remember, if you are 17 years old or younger, you’re required to go in person to a passport acceptance facility to apply. You can search for the location nearest to you by zip code, or city and state. If you need to renew a passport and you’re overseas (maybe on a study abroad program), then you’re eligible to apply through citizen services at the United States Consulate or Embassy of the country where you currently reside.

How much time will it take until my passport is ready?

As of November 2021, passport processing is much slower than normal. Usually, it’s 4 to 6 weeks but we’ve seen it take up to 12 weeks.  The application fees mentioned above cover “routine” passport processing. If you’re in a rush and need your passport asap, you can pay an additional $60 to expedite the process.

I already have a passport—can I renew?

Yupp! You actually don’t need to wait until your original passport is expired before you renew. Your original passport needs to have been issued when you were 16 years old or older. Unlike first-time passport applications for teens, renewal applications must be mailed so make sure you leave plenty of time for this process before your trip.

I’m not from the U.S. — is there a different process for me?

This guide is for teens who are U.S. citizens. We recommend that you check with your government’s website if you’re a teen who is a national of a country outside of the United States.

Make sure you’re ready for your travels

Now that you’ve got your passport plan ready to go, it’s time to think about where you will go next with the world at your fingertips! At Travel For Teens, we help young people create unique experiences as they become responsible travelers. Contact us today to learn more about our teen travel programs and how we can help with your travel plans.

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