How To Apply For a Passport for an Adopted Child?

How To Apply For a Passport for an Adopted Child?
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Approximately 135,000 children are adopted in the US each year. 

Adopting a child is a very emotional experience that parents look forward to –sometimes for many years . Apart from all the excitement and waiting,  adoption involves plenty of paperwork that new parents can find overwhelming at times. 

Applying for a passport for the adopted child is an inevitable part of this paperwork. To do so,  certain conditions  must be met when applying for a passport for an adopted child, regardless of whether they were born inside or outside the United States.

In this article, we will help you familiarize yourself with the process of applying for a passport for your adopted child and with all the necessary documentation required to grant your child a US passport.  

Where to apply for an American passport?

Passport applications are handled by the US Department of State at Passport Acceptance Facilities. These may be either post offices or some libraries and even universities, and your best bet is to find the closest location  using the US Department of State’s website.

In this article, we will go over all the required documentation you need in order to get a passport, but it’s always recommended  to contact your local passport facility for more detailed information regarding your child’s passport application. 

Fees and forms for US passport applications 

The main form adoptive parents must fill out when applying for a passport for their child is Form DS-11. You can download the form on the website of the US Department of State or pick one up at your local passport facility. Form DS-11 must be signed by the parents in front of the clerk processing the application, therefore you cannot sign it at home prior to showing up at the passport facility.

If your adopted child is foreign-born and hasn’t been assigned a Social Security number yet, the following statement must be submitted in written form: “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct: (full name of your adopted child) has never been issued a Social Security Number by the Social Security Administration.”

The statement will then need to be signed, dated, and submitted along with Form DS-11. We will cover the situation of foreign-born adopted children further in the article.

Another form that may have to be filed is Form DS-3053 in case there are two adoptive parents and one of those parents is unable to show up. The absent parent can consent by filling out Form DS-3053.

Lastly, it’s important to mention that US passport fees vary depending on the type of application with passport books, cards, or combination documents having their own unique pricing. You can also request expedited processing for your child’s application, however, there’s and additional fee involved. 

Find out more about passports from these articles:

If your adopted child was born in the US

If your adopted child is a US citizen under 16 (sixteen) years of age, as the adoptive parent(s), you must provide proof of the adopted child’s US citizenship, the relationship between you and your child, your government-issued identification, and parental consent.

Amended Birth Certificate (ABC)

US-born adopted children are issued an Amended Birth Certificate once the adoption process is finalized. The ABC document lists the adoptive parents as the legal parents of the child. If the document is issued within one (one) year of the child’s birth, it will suffice as proof of the child’s US citizenship as well as parenthood.

However, if the child’s Amended Birth Certificate is issued more than a year after their birthdate, it is considered to be a “delayed birth certificate” by the US Department of State, in which case additional documentation is necessary. 

Here, the adoptive parents will have to provide the child’s original birth certificate that lists their biological parents’ names. The ABC can also be submitted together with the original Adoption Order/Decree (with the date of the adoption and the biological parents’ names).

Applying for a passport before the finalization of the adoption

If you are currently going through the process of adopting a child, the following documents need to be presented at the US Passport Acceptance Facility:

  • your government I.D. such as a passport or driver’s license;
  • A certified copy of your child’s birth certificate establishing their US citizenship.
  • A certified copy of the Adoption Petition that has been filed with the adoption court to prove that the adoption is currently pending in a state court.
  • Documents proving that the child was placed for adoption (a relinquishment document).
  • 1 (one) 2” x 2” passport photo of the child taken within the last 6 (six) months.
  • It is not mandatory, but advised to provide an affidavit of authorization to travel outside the United States signed by the birth mother and/or a document that authorizes travel outside the US from the private adoption agency or county agency.

It is strongly recommended to provide authorization signed by the birth mother or the adoption agency. The birth mother of the adopted child should sign and notarize a document (an affidavit) that authorizes the adoptive parents to apply for a passport on behalf of their child and travel outside of the US before the adoption is finalized.

If your adopted child hasn’t been born yet, the adoptive parents should obtain the document from the birth mother at the time of signing the consent for adoption documents.

Sometimes it may be too late for this, in which case the best thing to do is to ask the county/private adoption agency that handles post-placement supervision for a letter, which informs the appropriate passport acceptance facility of the agency’s approval of the adoptive parents to apply for a passport and travel with the child outside of the United States before the adoption is finalized.

The child will be issued a passport under his or her adoptive name. A very important thing to remember is that being issued a passport by the State Department is not synonymous with the adoption agency’s or the judge’s approval of your travel.

Rather, approval for travel is dependent on one’s state of residence, so it’s always safest to consult your attorney or adoption agency in order to be 100% certain that leaving the country with your adopted child is legal.

Passport application after the finalization of adoption (before obtaining the ABC)

Now we’ll go over the requirements to be met when applying for a US passport for your child once your adoption process has been finalized. In this case, the adoptive parents are expected to provide the following documents to the appropriate US passport acceptance facility:

  • a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate;
  • a certified copy of the Adoption Order/Decree (signed);
  • your government I.D. such as a passport or driver’s license;
  • 1 (one) passport photo of the child taken within the last 6 (six) months.
  • California residents ONLY: a copy of the signed Adoption Agreement.
  • States other than California: If the final Adoption order/Decree doesn’t list the name of the child before the adoption, you will be required to provide a court document that includes the child’s name both before and after the adoption.  

If your adopted child is foreign-born

For foreign-born children, the passport application process is not necessarily much more difficult. When children are adopted by US citizens, they are automatically granted US citizenship through their parents. Thus, once parental citizenship status is verified, your child’s passport application process can commence.

In order to prove legal parenthood, the adoptive parents will be asked to submit the Adoption Decree. You will also need to provide your child’s Certificate of Citizenship issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Obtaining this document will vary depending on how your child entered the United States:

  • IR-3 or IH-3 visas: These types of visas are granted to children whose adoption was finalized outside of the United States. Once your child comes to the US, he or she will be sent their Certificate of Citizenship by USCIS, and no additional paperwork needs to be filed to obtain the certificate in this case.
  • IR-4 or IH-4 visas: For foreign-born adopted children whose adoption process was finalized in the US, an application will have to be filed in order to obtain their Certificate of Citizenship using Form N-600.

Applying for a passport before verification of US citizenship

Applying for a US passport for a child who is legally residing in the US but who has not had official verification of their US citizenship is possible. To do so, the adoptive parents must provide the following documents: 

  • a certified copy of the final Adoption Decree (it may have to be translated if the original document is not in English);
  • the child’s foreign passport (with the immigration stamp included) or your child’s Green Card (permanent resident card);
  • US parent’s proof of identity;
  • passport application (Form DS-11);
  • 1 (one) 2×2” passport photo of the child taken within the last 6 (six) months.

All of the above scenarios focus on the required documents rather than the application process, which is universal in all cases. In a nutshell, the process looks like this:

  1. Submit all the required documents (in person) at a US Passport Acceptance Facility.
  2. Pay the fees based on your selected document(s).
  3. Wait 7 (seven) to 10 (ten) weeks for your child’s new passport to arrive. 

Use Passport Photo Online for no-fuss passport photos

It’s no secret that applying for a passport for an adopted child requires some know-how and loads of paperwork. Thankfully, there’s no steep learning curve or complex paperwork when it comes to passport photos.   

With Passport Photo Online, you get professional quality passport photos using your smartphone’s camera. There’s no need to book appointments at far-off photo studios or wait in line at the photo booth – with our dedicated smartphone application (available on Android and iOS), a passport photo studio is right in your pocket. 

Best of all, the app makes child passport photos completely fuss-free, as any picture can be turned into a potential passport photo. Snap a photo when your child feels like cooperating or upload a beautiful snap – whatever you decide, compliance is guaranteed (or double your money back). 

Customer review touting Passport Photo Online for baby passport pictures.

Passport for an adopted child: FAQ

Read through the following frequently asked questions to gain more insight on the topic.

Can you get a US passport prior to adoption?

Yes, it is possible to receive a US passport with your child’s new surname prior to finalizing the adoption.

How long does it take to get a passport if you just adopted?

Routine processing is 7 (seven) to 10 (ten) weeks once all of the documents have been submitted and the application has been accepted by a US passport agent.

Is it difficult for an adopted person to get a passport?

While not difficult, the process is not as straightforward as a regular passport application due to the various documents that must be submitted in addition to the standard DS-11. Additionally, passport applications for adopted children can only be submitted in person.

Do I need my adoption papers to get a passport?

Yes, you do. If applying for your first US passport before verification of US citizenship, a translated copy of the final Adoption Decree is necessary (if applicable).

Passport for adopted child–final thoughts

Applying for a US passport for adopted children is not a difficult task compared to other formalities. It’s just a matter of providing the right documentation along with a compliant passport photo, and soon you’ll be able to enjoy traveling with your child.

We would be honored if you considered Passport Photo Online for your biometric photo needs during this exciting time. You can trust us to provide you with passport photos that are guaranteed to be accepted by US passport agents –all in a convenient and intuitive smartphone application that grants you photo studio capabilities right in your pocket 🙂    


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