Passport Requirements for Minors: Legal Considerations for Traveling Abroad with Children

Traveling internationally with children for the first time is an exciting but also stressful undertaking, and your clients are likely to have many questions about passport requirements for minors. Even parents who have taken their children abroad before may be wondering if the legal requirements have changed and what needs to be done in preparation for their trip. From applications and identification documents to notarized statements and custody orders, there is plenty to help your client figure out before they set off on vacation with their children.

Passport Application Requirement

Passport Requirements for Minors: Application Process

Anyone traveling internationally is required to have a passport (yes, even babies). A child under age 16 must appear in person, accompanied by both parents or legal guardians. If there is only one parent, they will also need to submit a death certificate or court order stating they have sole custody of their child.

There are numerous requirements that parents and legal guardians will need to comply with in addition to proof of custody, and any mistakes can slow the process substantially and potentially delay their travel plans. It’s important to have a solid understanding of the US Department of State’s criteria for a child’s passport application so you can help your travel client navigate the process.

Passport Photo

A photo of the applicant must accompany passport applications, and there are strict rules for the image they submit with a passport for a minor. Passport photos must be:

  • In color
  • Taken in the last six months
  • In good condition, free of damage
  • High-resolution
  • Printed on photo-quality paper

Travelers can choose a photo they already have or take a new one to include with the Form DS-11. Either way, they will need to keep the following in mind:

  • They cannot use filters or any editing software on their picture.
  • They must face the camera so the picture includes their face in full frontal view.
  • They should keep their expression neutral, with their mouth closed and eyes open.
  • They must take their glasses off (unless they have a medical note that requires them to stay on).
  • They should wear clothes they would normally wear in their day-to-day life, but no uniforms or camouflage clothing.

Head coverings are only allowed if they include a signed statement that they wear one for religious purposes or have a medical note stating it is medically necessary.

There are also size requirements for a passport photo. It must be a square image measuring 2 inches by 2 inches, and the head in the picture must measure 25 to 35 millimeters from the top of the head to the chin.

For small children and infants, the US Department of State understands that taking photos that meet these requirements is challenging. If your clients are traveling with a baby, the infant must be facing the camera with their eyes at least partially open. There cannot be anyone else in the photo with the child, and they cannot have anything blocking their face like a pacifier.

Many people find it easier to have the photo taken at a passport acceptance facility. Many post offices, pharmacies, and libraries are approved locations for passport photos.

Citizenship Evidence

A minor’s passport application must include either primary or secondary evidence of US citizenship. Because your travel client is applying for their child, they will need to submit documentation that shows they are the parent or legal guardian. This can include a birth certificate, custody order, or adoption decree. Whatever form of citizenship documentation they choose, it will likely need to be an original version of the document or a certified copy.

Custody Requirements for Minors’ Passports

Custody Requirements for Passport

Depending on the custody arrangements, there may be some extra steps required to get a passport for a minor. If your client and their child’s other parent or guardian can both be present for the application process, there is nothing extra that they’ll need to worry about at this point. However, you should advise your clients of the below scenarios in case any apply to them:

When They Have Sole Legal Custody

They will need to prove that they have sole legal authority and that consent from the other parent isn’t needed. Include the court order that granted them sole custody or the order that allows them to apply for the passport without permission from the other parent. They can also submit a certified copy of their child’s birth certificate that lists them as the only parent.

When the Other Parent Cannot Attend the Application Appointment

If work, illness, or another obligation prevents both parents or guardians from appearing at the passport appointment, there’s no need to stress about delays or rescheduling. Submit a Form DS-3053 along with a photocopy of the absent parent’s ID. This form must be signed and notarized within 90 days of the appointment to be valid.

When Their Child’s Other Parent is Deceased

It won’t be enough just to provide this information; they must submit documentation. The death certificate should be all they need to satisfy this requirement.

How to Get a Child’s Passport

Get Child Passport

A child’s passport application is submitted on Form DS-11 along with a photo, evidence of US citizenship, and proof of custody or parental relationship. If your clients are filing with a passport acceptance facility like a post office or library, they should check with that location to see if they require appointments.

It is helpful to review the State Department’s requirements to ensure they have all the necessary documentation before their appointment, including any court orders, decrees, and additional forms.

They should also be prepared to pay a passport fee with their application. There will likely be two fees for a child’s passport – the application fee and the execution fee. The execution fee is currently $35, but the total amount due will depend on whether the parent is requesting a passport card or a passport book. As of the time of this writing, the passport fees are as follows:

  • Passport Book – $100 application fee
  • Passport Card – $15 application fee

To order both a passport book and a passport card, they will pay $115 for the application fee.

If your client is in a hurry to receive their child’s passport, they may be able to request expedited service by paying an additional fee. The cost for expedited processing is $60.

Pricing in this article is current as of the publishing date of January 11, 2024.

In addition to the criteria for obtaining a passport for a minor, there are also legal requirements for international travel with children if both parents will not be going on the trip. When possible, solo parent travelers will need a notarized statement from their child’s other guardian or parent in order to travel internationally.

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