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I obtained my daughter's first children passport when she was just a few months old. Now she is three and during our last flight an immigration officer complained that her passport had a baby photo. He let us through but it sounded like he was making an exception and he strongly advised us to renew her passport ASAP. However, it does not officially expire for another few years until she's six and it should have been obvious at issue that her appearance will drastically change.

Obviously a new passport costs money and effort so we'd prefer to just keep using hers as long as possible but could we get into trouble for doing so and in the worst case be declined entry? Are there certain countries where this would be a bigger problem than others?

By the way, if that's relevant my daughter holds a German passport and oddly enough the immigration officer that complained was also a German one.

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The immigration officer being German is relevant. It probably ran against his innate sense of orderliness that a document that exists to identify persons fails to fulfill this purpose and could be fixed but isn't- even if this state is widely tolerated and legally allowed for practical reasons. –  Michael Borgwardt Aug 18 at 12:02
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Totally read that as before the [child's] expiry date :/ –  Mark Mayo Aug 18 at 14:26
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Technically, I don't think there is any obligation to renew a passport under any circumstances (in Germany, it's the ID card that's mandatory). But if some officials (at home or abroad) don't want to accept yours, you might have no other choice than getting a new one… Legally speaking, the question therefore becomes “Can the German police refuse to recognize a passport because they they think it can't be matched to the holder?” If you look at things this way, the answer seems to be obvious. –  Relaxed Aug 18 at 16:25
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@Relaxed: The ID card is not any more mandatory in Germany than the passport. Anyone over 16 years of age has to have either a valid ID card or a valid passport (and can optionally have both, obviously). –  O. R. Mapper Aug 19 at 9:27
    
@O.R.Mapper I didn't know that, thanks. But I think the point still holds, there is no obligation to renew the passport as such and certainly no obligation for a kid to have a passport at all. –  Relaxed Aug 19 at 9:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

When we got the passport for our daughter (also German, then also <1 year old) we were told that we can have the photo in the existing passport updated for less than the price of a new passport. Children's passports can also be extended (being valid for another 6 years) and apparently this can be combined with the photo update, costing you 6 Euro and a passport-compatible photo, and the time to appear in person - kid and both parents (unless there is only one custodial parent), or kid, one parent and written permission and passport/ID of the other).

Updating sounded optional the way our local office described it. Googling the problem turns up many personal reports of no problems occurring and even 7 year-olds travelling with essentially baby photos in their passport. We traveled when our daughter was three years older than on the photo and I only remember Turkish officials making friendly remarks about picture disparity (as in "how cute") and nothing out of the ordinary when re-entering Germany.

However, Passgesetz §11 states

(1) Ein Paß oder Paßersatz ist ungültig, wenn 1. er eine einwandfreie Feststellung der Identität des Paßinhabers nicht zuläßt ...

"A passport is invalid if it does not allow a flawless determination of the identity of the holder...", so there may be an interpretation of the law that supports the official you encountered. Also, §5 may be worded a bit ambiguously:

[...]der Kinderreisepass [kann] bis zur Vollendung des zwölften Lebensjahres verlängert werden. Er ist mit einem aktuellen Lichtbild zu versehen.

The final sentence states "The [child's passport] must be equipped with an up-to-date photograph", which occurs in the context of validity extension, but does not explicitly reference it.

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"A passport is invalid if it does not allow a flawless determination of the identity of the holder..." Well, in that case, no passport is valid in Germany! :-) –  David Richerby Aug 18 at 21:27
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@DavidRicherby there's a difference between an adult getting a new haircut and a baby growing into a 4 year old... –  jwenting Aug 19 at 7:07
    
Hm, so we have 3 answers, yes, no, and it's complicated :) Marking this one as the accepted answer as it cites actual law. Also 6 Euros doesn't sound too bad so I'll think we look into the photo update option to play it safe. Thanks for everyone's input. –  themik81 Aug 19 at 7:18
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@jwenting, indeed. The baby had no choice but to grow up. The adult chose to have a haircut and is thus attempting to commit passport fraud. :-) –  tobyink Aug 19 at 7:30
    
@tobyink arrest those parents for allowing their baby to grow up! ;) –  jwenting Aug 19 at 7:33

Yes, you have to change the passport.

This tells * :

Was viele nicht wissen – wenn Ihr Baby, Kleinkind oder Kind zum Zeitpunkt Ihrer Reise keine Ähnlichkeit mehr hat mit dem Lichtbild im Pass, dann kann es sein, dass der Pass nicht mehr akzeptiert und für ungültig erklärt wird.

or, in English,

What many do not know - if your baby, toddler, or child at the time of your trip no longer bears any resemblance to the photo in his/her passport, then it is possible for the passport to no longer be accepted and is declared invalid.

meaning that they can treat the passport as invalid.

In some countries, it is even the law that they do not give babies passport that is valid longer then 2 years, because of their drastic look change.

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In the UK it's 5 years, but when a passport is issued for an under-1-year-old as in the question, how often is often enough for updating? Bald->hair makes a big difference for example. –  Chris H Aug 18 at 14:04
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I would really like to know where "This" gets that information from, but it seems I have to buy their family trip guidebook for details. :-( –  arne.b Aug 18 at 14:19
    
@ChrisH No idea. But difference in look between 2-years and 5-years old is not as big as 6-months and 3-years. –  BЈовић Aug 18 at 14:20
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In English: "What many do not know - if your baby, toddler or child at the time of your trip no more resemblance is the photograph in the passport, then it may be that the passport is no longer accepted and declared invalid." –  CGCampbell Aug 18 at 14:59
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In better english: "What many do not know - if your baby, toddler, or child at the time of your trip no longer bears any resemblance to the photo in his/her passport, then it is possible for the passport to no longer be accepted and is declared invalid. –  Joe Aug 18 at 15:11

I can't speak for Germany specifically, as each country sets its own guidelines for this, but there is a general obligation to get a new passport if your appearance changes drastically. However, this is usually intended at adults only, and the US even exempts children officially as long as the change is due to the "normal aging process":

You may have to apply for a new passport if you have:

  • Undergone significant facial surgery or trauma
  • Added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos
  • Undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain
  • Made a gender transition

If the appearance of your child under the age of 16 has changed due to the normal aging process, you do not need to apply for a new passport for him or her.

FWIW, my son's passport photo was taken at the ripe old age of three months when he was a super-chubby baby, but while there's barely any resemblance left to today's skinny preschooler, nobody has ever complained. I would be pretty astonished if an officer anywhere denied entry to a child traveling with their parents, just because they've gotten older -- and I'd be doubly astonished if they were refused entry back into their home country!

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I'd be less astonished. After all, there is no way to know whether the child is really the one the passport was issued to. In Austria, an ID is generally not valid if the picture doesn't resemble you anymore, no matter why. –  fNek Aug 18 at 13:47
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Right - nothing is checked more carefully than small children, because of the whole abduct-children, overseas divorces, type of issues. –  Joe Blow Aug 18 at 14:12
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@JoeBlow: That's why you bring a travel letter with you as a single parent - they trust that much more than the level of resemblance of the photo. Note that the TSA doesn't even require minors to produce ID on domestic flight. –  Jonas Aug 18 at 14:36

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