I recently took my two-month-old son Bode for his first passport photo. Dressed in a sweet blue sweater, he was well rested and ready to smile for the nice person at the photo shop. That would prove to be my downfall—Bode wouldn’t stop smiling. We had to give up and try again another day.
A docile, but awake, baby is just one of the requirements for an acceptable passport photo. Your child must have open eyes and a closed mouth, the photo must show head and shoulders only, attire must contrast with the background and he must appear to be sitting on his own—that is, the hands of the person holding the child cannot be visible. But getting a photo that won’t be rejected by the passport authorities is just one of the challenges associated with newborn identification. Here’s what you need to know about your baby’s government paper project.
The hospital is the starting point for newborn paperwork and will have the forms you need. (With home births, ask your midwife.) You may be overwhelmed to have a new addition, but don’t wait too long before looking through your handouts. First up is a health insurance number. After completing the registration form, a number will be assigned to your child and you will receive his card from your provincial provider in the mail within a few weeks. Next, you will have to register the birth (Statement of Live Birth), which, depending on where you live, must be completed within 30 days. This document establishes the legal identity of your child and becomes a permanent record. This information is also used to produce birth certificates. The form must be sent to your local vital statistics office.
How you fill out the paperwork also varies greatly between provinces. Parents in British Columbia and Ontario have it easy and can apply for all paperwork online at the same time. “If you have the option for online registration, you should use it,” says David Shelly, owner of vitalcertificates.ca, a British Columbia-based business that helps people across Canada order government documents. The online options have a much quicker turnaround time (as fast as five business days in Ontario for some items) and they can eliminate any problems with illegibility that can cause holdups. There is no cost to register a birth.
Once your babe’s birth has been registered, you can apply for a birth certificate. They are available in short- (typically card-sized) and long-form versions. The long form contains all the information on the short form, plus the parent’s names and their birthplaces, and is preferred by government agencies, such as Passport Canada. Make sure you write full names for everyone and provide your home address instead of a P.O. box. “Provinces courier the documents and they need a location where someone can sign for the paperwork,” says Shelly.
Cost varies by province and territory—most charge between $25 and $40 for a birth certificate. Rush services are also available, and again they vary in cost and speed from province to province. For more information on obtaining a birth certificate, go to servicecanada.gc.ca.
Your baby may be years away from holding a paying gig, but he’ll need a Social Insurance Number if you plan to open a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for him that allows savings to grow tax-free until he enrols in post-secondary education. A SIN also permits you to take advantage of the Canada Education Savings Grant, which provides a lifetime maximum of $7,200 to his plan. You can download an application at servicecanada.gc.ca.
Babies need a valid passport for air travel. The fee for children under three is $22. The document is valid for three years. If the child was born in Canada, you need a birth certificate (issued by a Canadian province or territory) before you can apply, and proof of parentage. A long-form certificate is acceptable, says Béatrice Fénelon, a spokesperson for Passport Canada, as is an order of adoption indicating the name(s) of the adoptive parent(s). One of the child’s two photos submitted must also be signed by a guarantor who has known your family for at least two years—and, of course, no smiling.
Nancy Ripton is the co-founder of JustTheFactsBaby.com. After three kids she has finally mastered the newborn passport photo shoot.
This story is part of our New Baby Guide. Check it out for more info on bringing home, planning for and surviving having a new baby.