How long do child passports last and how do you apply for one?

We explain how long child passports last, how to get one and what you should do if you are your partner are separated or have a different surname than your child

mother and daughter with luggage looking at passports in queue at the airport
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re planning any overseas family getaway, it’s essential you know how long your children’s passports last and that you are on top of this vital bit of travel documentation.

In addition to arranging your family's travel insurance, you will also need to factor in how long it will take to get a passport if anyone in your family doesn't have one or needs to renew theirs.'s Money Editor Sarah Handley says: "It's so important that you get your family's passports sorted before you book your holiday. If you don't or if there is a delay in getting the passports through, it could jeopardise your entire holiday, and the money you have spent."

If you've got passport applications to submit, it can be costly, so it's worth knowing how to take passport photos at home to see if that can save you some money.

How long do child passports last?

Child passports, for those aged 15 and under, only last for five years, unlike adults’ (age 16 and over) which are valid for 10 years. 

That means that it's essential you stay on top of how long your children have left on their passports as they may need renewing well before yours. If you applied for your passports at the same time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they will run out at the same time too.

At what age can my child get a 10-year passport?

Your child will only get 10 years on their passport once they turn 16 and graduate to an adult passport. However, they can apply for an adult passport up to three weeks before their 16th birthday.

Your children don’t have to apply for an adult passport at this point though and can carry on using their existing one until it runs out, even if that’s after they turn 18. With prices for adult passports starting at £82.50, there’s no point getting your child a new passport unless they need it.

young child standing in departure lounge with arms up and holding her passport

(Image credit: Getty Images)

 Does my child need their own passport? 

Although children used to be able to travel on their parents' passports, that’s no longer the case. Every child, including newborn babies, needs their own passport to travel internationally. This rule was introduced in 1998 to reduce the risk of child abduction.

You don’t, at least, need to worry if you are only flying within the UK, as Cathy Adams, senior content editor for travel at The Times and Sunday Times explains: “If you are travelling domestically by air, the airline will only ask that a child under 16 is vouched for by a parent, they don’t need their own passport.”

How long does a child passport need to have left on it to travel? 

Unfortunately, there’s no black-and-white answer to how long a child needs to have left on their passport in order to travel as different countries can have different requirements. 

Ting Dalton, founder of the My Travel Monkey blog says a good rule of thumb is to ensure you always have at least six months left on your passport. “For some destinations, a valid passport isn’t the only requirement — you may also need to have full blank pages for visa and entry and exit stamps.”

You can check the requirements of the country you are visiting with the Foreign Office’s travel advice service. 

toddler wearing teddy backpack pulling a wheelie suitcase through an airport waiting area

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to apply for a child’s passport  

It’s pretty straightforward to apply for a child’s passport online, using the government website. If you prefer, you can make a paper application at the Post Office, but it will cost more - £64, compared to £53.50 online. The Post Office can check and send your passport application for you, but it charges an additional fee of £16 for this service.

In order to apply for a child’s passport you’ll need the following:

  • Two identical passport photos
  • The child’s birth or adoption certificate
  • Proof of their nationality – for example your passport details or birth certificates
  • Any court orders for parental responsibility or residency agreements

You will also need another individual who knows your child to verify their identity. If you are applying online, HM Passport Office will email your chosen contact to complete the process. In order to do this, they need to be over 18 and be in a recognised profession – you can see the full list here.

Documents must be original or replacements – you cannot send photocopies or laminated paperwork. Your documents will be posted back to you, but you can pay a £5 fee to have them delivered by secure delivery if you prefer. The passport will be posted or delivered by courier separately.

Travel expert Cathy Adams says it best to allow as much time as you can to get your child’s passport as travel with children is stressful enough without the added worry of last-minute applications. “The passport service recommends allowing 10 weeks from sending off the application, although in reality it's much quicker than this - the website Passport Waiting Times is a crowd-sourced real-time info platform that tells you the average waiting time.”

young child doing jumping jack while looking our of airport lounge window at a plane

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Don’t panic though if you have cut it a bit fine. You might not have to abandon your trip, as Ting Dalton, herself discovered much to her relief.  “If, like me, you realise that your child’s passport has expired and you are travelling imminently, you can speed up the process by applying online and going in person to your nearest passport office. I did have to pay £126 for the passport but I was at least handed it in the appointment.”

My partner and I are divorced – will that affect my child’s passport application? 

If you and your partner are divorced or separated and your child is under the age of 16, both parents will need to agree to the passport application. The only exception would be if there is a court order stating that only one of the parents has parental responsibility for the child. 

Making matters more complicated still, if you are taking your child overseas, without their other parent, you will need to able provide proof they have provided permission for the trip. However, if they won’t give their permission, you might be able to get a court order.

Although these rules can make life difficult for couples that are no longer on speaking terms, they exist to reduce the risk of children being abducted. 

mother and daughters looking at passports standing by a luggage trolley at the airport

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Does it matter that my child and I have different surnames?

Even though it’s not uncommon for one parent to have a different surname to their child, it still makes international travel more complicated. The key is to be prepared and make sure you have evidence that you are the child’s parent, whenever you are travelling without the parent they do share a name with. 

The easiest way to do this is bring a copy of their birth certificate – you can buy extra copies for around £10.  Travel expert Cathy Adams says: “I have a different surname to my three-year-old son, and I never leave home without it. Some countries, like the Netherlands (which is hot on child trafficking) will insist on it; and I'm always asked for it in the London and Paris Eurostar terminals.”

If a birth certificate isn’t an option, a letter from the child’s other parent might be accepted. Again, it’s helpful to check with the Foreign Office for advice on specific countries, before you travel.

 Can I take my child’s passport photo myself? 

The days of dragging the kids out to find a photo booth in a supermarket are, thankfully, long gone – you can take your child’s photo yourself with your smart phone. Family travel blogger Ting Dalton says: “You then upload it via an app and your passport photos will be posted to you.”

You can take a photo of a baby lying on a plain mat or towel and, if they are under one, it doesn’t matter if their mouth is open or their eyes shut. Toddlers and older children should stand against a plain wall.

However, passport photo requirements are strict. So, if you’re worried about your photography skills (or your kids ability to stay still), you might want to pay for it to be done professionally. “Shops like Snappy Snaps offer a children’s passport photo service,” suggests Cathy Adams “and when I did my son’s passport photo with them I also got a free keyring with his picture on it.”

If you are planning a holiday, then do check if you need travel insurance, and get it as soon as you book to safeguard your holiday investment. 

Cathy Adams, travel expert
Cathy Adams

Cathy Adams is senior content editor for travel at The Times and Sunday Times, writing about destinations, hotels and things to do across the world (although she has a particular love of Asia).

Travel blogger Ting Dalton
Ting Dalton

As well as writing for one of the UK's largest travel operators, Ting Dalton is a multi-award winning travel writer and runs the family travel blog My Travel Monkey.

Personal finance expert

As well as being a mum, Rachel Lacey is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about all areas of personal finance and retirement planning. After 17 years at Moneywise magazine as both writer and editor, Rachel now writes for a variety of websites and newspapers as well as corporate clients. She is passionate about financial education and simplifying money matters for all.