Getting a British passport for my American baby was top of my to do list after I had my son. My husband and I are both British and it felt really important to me to establish his citizenship soon after birth.
There’s a lot of paperwork involved, which can be a challenge to navigate in the sleep-deprived, post-baby haze! So here are a few tips to help get you through:
1. Get baby’s American passport first
Before you start the process of getting a British passport, make sure you have your baby’s American passport. You need to send a color photocopy of it with the application and once you submit the online part of the application a six-week timer starts. If you don’t get the paper part and your documents to HM Passport Office by the end of six weeks you lose your application fee and have to start all over again.
A British passport uses a different photo size to an American one. If you have a wriggler like mine, getting baby’s photograph taken is pretty stressful! So when you go to Walgreens make sure you get both sizes printed at once.
3. Birth Certificates
If you were born after 1983 you need to send baby’s grandparents’ birth certificates with the paper part of the application. I didn’t want to ask my parents and parents-in-law to unpack their attics and search for their birth certificates and then post them out to the US so I went ahead and ordered new ones. You can order them from the General Register Office and they cost £9.25 each. There’s no extra cost for international shipping. You need a person’s full name, birth date and place of birth to order their birth certificate so I sent everyone an email with a form for them to fill out and send back to me. It’s worth doing this before you fill out the online application for the six-week timer mentioned above. I didn’t and was getting worried that everything wouldn’t arrive on time.
You’ll also need to send off your baby’s American birth certificate, so make sure that if you don’t have a copy, you won’t need it for another purpose while it’s in the UK.
4. Online Application
You can fill out the application form online on HM Passport Office website. Have your credit/debit card ready because this is where you pay the fee. Also, make sure you have access to a printer because you need to print out the form at the end. This includes a checklist of all the documents you need to send with your application. I found it a bit confusing so I rang HM Passport Office who were (to my surprise) very helpful.
Don’t forget…once you hit ‘Submit’ you have six weeks to get a paper copy and all your documents to the UK.
You’ll need a ‘countersignatory’ to sign the back of your baby’s passport photo and state the picture is a ‘true likeness’ of him or her. The person needs to have known you for two years, be a professional and not be related to you. There’s also a section in the paper application they need to fill out, so don’t forget to ask them to do this at the same time.
This would have been a challenge for us because we had only lived in the US for two years at the time of the application, but we had some old friends staying with us who signed for our baby.
If you haven’t known anyone in the US for two years, someone with a UK, Irish, EU, US or Commonwealth passport can sign but they need to give you a color photocopy of their passport for you to send with the application.
When to expect your British passport
My baby’s took about three weeks to arrive. I had a text message from DHL telling me that I had a parcel coming from ‘DDGS C/O’ that required a signature. I was wracking my brains trying to work out what I had ordered from the UK – I have a bad habit of ordering things from marksandspencer.com! But, a quick Google search told me DDGS C/O means a passport is on its way! Your birth certificates will be returned a couple of days later in a separate DHL delivery.
Expecting expats need to accumulate all the traditional baby gear plus an American passport for their American baby if they plan to go back ‘home’.