Passports and other useful admin for British babies born in the US

I had to take about 20 shots before I got this image! Baby J with both his US and British passports

Four months ago today, our third child was born in New York, and is therefore officially entitled to an American and a British passport. There’s quite a lot of admin involved in having a baby here (British or not), so I thought it might be helpful to share what we’ve learnt.

American birth certificate

This is organised by the hospital at birth, so you need to decide the baby’s name PDQ (unlike the British system where you have to make an appointment at your local council registery office within six weeks of the birth).

The birth certificate takes several weeks to arrive

You only get one ‘full’ certificate, but you can apply for extra, shorter versions online here. Annoyingly, I went ahead and did this thinking I could use it for his British passport application and get that started, before I found out that HMRC will only accept full birth certificates (see below)

American passport

Here’s the link on how to apply.

Both, repeat both, parents are required to bring the baby along when you apply, which we did at the enormous US Post Office on Church Street (if you’re bringing your newborn in a pushchair, use the Vesey Street corner entrance as it’s the nearest to the elevators and has automatic doors).

You need to fill out the application form in advance and bring it along with;

    • Original evidence of the child’s US citizenship (so you need to wait for the birth certificate to arrive first)
    • Evidence of the child’s relationship to parents/guardians (again, the original birth certificate will work here)
  • Parent/guardian government-issued identification (British passports are accepted, but they prefer it if at least one of you has a US-issued photo ID such as a Non-Driver’s Licence or Driver’s Licence. You must bring a photo copy showing both front and back of the licence)

US & British passport photos

You need two passport photos when you apply for each passport, but they have different size requirements.

The US rules are pretty similar to Britain’s, but unlike the UK system, no one needs to witness them for you. Instead, the application person will study the baby very closely and compare it to the passport photo before they’ll process the application).

You will need a British passport holder to witness the baby’s photographs for the British passport. It can’t be the parents!

I took J to a local photo shop, Trilogy Photo Lab on Chambers & Church Street, which provided a (slightly manky) car seat with a (fairly white) sheet to help him face the camera without anyone else in the photo. It was expensive but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble only to be told the photo was rejected. I got them to print out two US and two British sizes while I was at it.

Applying for a British passport

Here’s how to apply for a British passport for a child born in America.

If British parents have a baby in America, the baby is entitled to hold both a US and a British passport. It’s fairly straightforward; you apply online, and then you have to print out the form and post it with the photos and supporting documents.

Two warnings – HM Passport Office requires the originals within six weeks, otherwise they delete your application and you won’t get a refund. Secondly, they will only accept full birth certificates for the child and the mother (by full, I mean it must show parents names on there too).

As it takes several weeks for the full US birth certificate to arrive, I’d recommend waiting for it before filling out the British application form online. We cut it very fine indeed as we had to wait for the US passport office to process and return the birth certificate before I could then send it off to London. I ended up having to pay an eyewatering £50+ just to guarantee a quick arrival to meet the deadline.

Once they have everything they need, it then takes about two weeks to post back the new passport and your birth certificates etc.


The baby’s new tax number (ITIN) arrives within days of the birth. You’ll need the ITIN for your US tax returns.

Register the birth in Britain

Not essential, but useful to have extra documentation sometimes, you never know. You can still apply for a UK passport for your child even if you don’t register the birth in the UK. Writing this blog post now, I’ve realised I never actually got round to doing this after the flurry of sorting out the passports. Oops… Sorry C. Will sort!

This week’s Highs & Lows:


  • I had an unprecedented, exceptionally good day recently. I updated my CV, applied for a job, cooked supper in advance, did a load of washing (washed, dried, folded AND put away), emptied the dishwasher, and went to the gym for the first time since I was pregnant with T back in 2010 and vomited all over the treadmill. The results were so horrific I never went back. Until now. A mere six years later.
  • All the lovely comments people have made when nominating me in the Mumsnet Blogging Awards #MNBlogAwards. My favourite so far was “Don’t have kids. Never been to New York. Love your blog. Nominated!” Entries close at the end of July, so it’s not too late to vote for me… 🙂
  • B has started writing very simple words like ‘Hop’ and ‘Hot’. I found this specimen tucked into J’s baby bouncer. I think the circle was inspired by the family unit in ‘The Good Dinosaur’. V sweet.


  • Baby J (four months old today!), has learnt how to roll over onto his tummy, and is promptly sick. This morning, three times he face planted in his own sick before 7.15am. The girls thought it was hilarious, so he beamed his giant, toothless, soundless smile, all the while with white milk-vom sliding down his face.
  • And this isn’t really a low, but it made me laugh so it’s a ‘just because’ photo, fairly recently I realised I had accidentally dressed J to match my tea cup…
When you accidentally dress your baby to match your tea cup
When you accidentally dress your baby to match your tea cup

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

2 thoughts on “Passports and other useful admin for British babies born in the US”

  1. Great info. One more thing to bear in mind for 5 years down the line (a recent learning for us)…

    If you’re living back in the UK and need to renew the child’s US passport, you have to take the child to the US embassy in London (or consulate in Edinburgh / Belfast) with BOTH parents and a pre-arranged appointment. If one parent cannot attend you can do it with one parent and a notarised form completed by the other). Half term appointments go quickly so plan ahead!!

    I think US citizens with dual citizenship are required to travel into the US on their US passport so if you plan to visit the US you need to keep both British and US passports up to date.

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