Helpful Tips

Do Both Parents Need to be Present for Child Passport?

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Traveling can be stressful even when it’s just you. Add a child and an international destination, and things get much more stressful and much more complicated in a hurry. In many cases, traveling internationally with a child leaves the mother or father wondering: Do both parents need to be present for child passport?

The U.S. State Department has recently made changes to the requirements for getting a child passport. So, to help your international trip with children go as smoothly as possible, here’s everything you need to know about getting a passport, including the answer to this pressing question: Do both parents need to be present for child passport?

You might be wondering if your child needs a passport at all. The answer is “yes,” if you’re traveling to a foreign country. If you’re flying domestically, your child needs no ID (unless the airline requires proof of age for some reason, like if you’re trying to get a child under 2 onto a flight for free). If you’re flying to a U.S. territory (like Puerto Rico), your child needs no ID or passport, but he or she will need proof of citizenship and identity. But, in all cases, no matter the age and no matter the destination, your child needs a passport to travel to a foreign country.

 

4 Steps: Getting a Passport for a Child

Why has the U.S. State Department updated requirements for getting a child passport? Because it is trying to combat child abductions and human trafficking. While combatting these two issues is noble and important, it does make things more complicating for parents who need to secure child passports.

So, to make sure you have no issues getting your child a passport, follow these steps.

1. Fill Out Form DS-11

There’s just one form that all U.S. citizens must fill out to start the passport process. That form is known as the DS-11 (just click the link to check it out). This form is needed in a number of different cases, including:

  • When you need a first-time passport
  • When you need to replace a damaged, lost or stolen passport
  • When you need to renew a passport that’s been expired for 5-plus years
  • When you need to renew a passport issued to someone 15 or younger

Two tips for filling out the DS-11. First, make sure you write legibly. If the agent cannot read your writing, you’ll have to fill out the form again. And, second, leave it unsigned until you’re in the presence of an agent.

And that’s it. Start with the DS-11.

2. Collect Other Necessary Documents

Of course, you’ll need more than just the DS-11 to get a passport for a child. You’ll need a series of other supporting documents, including:

  • A certified long-form birth certificate or other evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship (plus a photocopy)
  • A U.S. birth certificate or other evidence of the parents’ or guardians’ legal relationship to the child (plus a photocopy)
  • A passport or valid driver’s license for the parents/guardians OR a valid driver’s license for the child (plus a photocopy)
  • A passport photo for your child taken in the last 6 months (which you can typically get at drugstores, post offices and other places)

One last note: All photocopies must be on white, notebook-size (8.5 by 11 inches) paper, and only one side of each sheet can be used. Did we say that it’s complicated to get a passport for a child? This is just one of the many hurdles that can derail your application if you don’t make the proper preparations.

3. Gather Special Circumstance Documents

OK, so here’s the section that’s relevant to parents wondering if both parents need to be present for child passport. The answer is typically “yes,” both parents do need to be present. But there are 4 special circumstances that require documentation. Those special circumstances are:

  1. The Child Has Only One Parent or Guardian: You’ll need evidence of sole authority over the child, such as a birth certificate listing a single parent, a court order granting sole legal custody, a death certificate for the non-applying parent, etc.
  2. One Parent or Guardian is Unable to Appear: You’ll need a signed, notarized Form DS-3053, which is a “statement of consent” from the non-applying parent. Use the link to download the form, and don’t forget to notarize!
  3. One Parent or Guardian Cannot be Located: You’ll need to submit a Form DS-5525, which is a statement of exigent or special family circumstances. You may be asked to provide additional evidence to support your claim before the passport can be issued.
  4. Both Parents or Guardians are Unavailable: A third-party can accompany a child to get a passport, but only with a signed, notarized statement or affidavit from both parents or guardians that authorizes the third-party to accompany the minor. You’ll also need a photocopy of each parents’ ID (passport or valid driver’s license), as well as evidence of sole custody if there’s only one parent or guardian.

Take some time gathering these documents and double-checking whether or not they have been signed, notarized or otherwise executed properly. Having the wrong documents or not having the right ones is the most common way a passport application for a child gets derailed.

4. Visit an Application Acceptance Location

There are more than 9,000 places where you can apply for a passport across the United States. Once you have all your documents and materials, gather them together and take them to your closest passport office.

You’ll also need to pay a fee to apply for a child passport. There’s an application fee paid to the State Department, as well as an execution fee that’s paid to the agent.

Once you have submitted all materials and paid the relevant fees, it takes up to 6 weeks for the State Department to process the application. Traveling sooner than that? You can pay a little bit extra for expedited service that delivers the passport in 2 or 3 weeks.

 

Final Thoughts on Needing Both Parents to be Present for Child Passport

The fastest and easiest way to secure a passport for a child is for both parents to be present at application. Of course, that’s not always possible. In cases where both parents cannot be present, check out step No. 3 listed above, and make sure you have the proper documentation for your unique situation.

Here’s an overarching tip, no matter your circumstances: Give yourself as much time as possible. It takes up to 6 weeks to get a passport after initial application, and that’s assuming you have all the right documents and your application goes smoothly. To be sure there are no issues with your international travels, give yourself at least 2 months (and preferably even longer) to make sure you have no issues getting a child passport.

Also, if you have any questions along the way, you can always go straight to the U.S. Passport Service and pose questions or search for answers.

Do you have anything to add on getting a child passport? If so, let us know in the comments section below, or send a message using our contact form.

Brad has spent the bulk of his life in Austin, TX, minus just a few years traveling the country and writing for local newspapers. When he isn’t spending time with his wonderful family, Brad is likely to be found watching a ballgame, reading a book or taking a well-earned nap.

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