How to Get a Child’s Passport with One Parent Absent

How to Get a Child’s Passport with One Parent Absent

If you plan to travel internationally with your family, you must know that each and every member of the family needs to possess his or her own passport. Children must have passports, and minors under the age of 16 need to renew their passports every five years. Since 2001, the US State Department has required children to apply for their passports in person with two parents or guardians.

But not every child has two parents who can be present. This article tells single parents how they can get a passport for their child when one parent is absent. 

General rules for children’s passports

First of all, you cannot renew any child’s passport using the renewal form DS-82; you have to apply for a replacement passport using form DS-11. Fill out the form, but do NOT sign it. Make an appointment at your local passport acceptance office (often a post office), and appear there with the applicant (your child) and your supporting documents that include:

  • The child’s certified US birth certificate OR their old passport, to prove citizenship
  • If adopted, the adoption decree to prove the child’s relationship to the parents (read more: How To Apply For a Passport for an Adopted Child?)
  • Valid photo IDs from both parents to prove their identity
  • Photocopies of everything listed above
  • A recent passport-quality color photograph of the applicant
  • A money order or cashier’s check to pay the fees

Once the passport clerk reviews all the documents, both parents sign the application. Your child’s passport should arrive by registered mail in 12 to 18 weeks.

The other parent is unavailable

Maybe the other parent is living in another state, or on active military duty in another country, or incarcerated, or otherwise unable to attend. What then? Then you have some additional paperwork in front of you.

If one parent or guardian is unable to appear, they can simply give their written permission for the child’s passport. They do this by filling out the “statement of consent” form DS-3053. The signing of this form must be witnessed by a certified notary public. The absent parent must also provide a photocopy of their valid government-issued photo ID (which should be the same ID they use to identify themselves to the notary public).

Add this form DS-3053 to the rest of your application paperwork, and you should be good to go.

Find out more about passports from these articles:

The other parent is missing

Say that for some reason, the other parent is unable to give their written consent for your child to get a passport. Perhaps they’re deliberately avoiding you, or in solitary confinement, or maybe they’re in a coma. For such special circumstances, you will need to complete the “statement of special family circumstances” form DS-5525. In this case, you will need to submit evidence and supply as much additional information as you can. Additional documentation is also required.

The additional information takes the form of a written notarized statement from you, explaining in as much detail as possible exactly what these special circumstances are. It cannot be something as simple as your ex-husband not returning your calls and not replying to your emails—it needs to be more like your ex-husband’s whereabouts are unknown.

The additional required documentation might include: a restraining order, a letter of incarceration, a signed statement from their commanding officer that they cannot be reached, or a judicial letter of incompetence.

Add your letter of explanation and form DS-5525 to your stack of paperwork, and hope for the best.

The other parent is unwilling

If the other parent puts their foot down and refuses to approve a passport application for your child, there might not be much you can do about it. However, there are a couple of things you can try to do.

Apply for a court order requiring the other parent to sign the consent form, or apply for sole legal custody of the child. Both of these options are likely to cost thousands of dollars and take a minimum of six months. You will need to consult an attorney. 

There is no other parent

If you already have sole legal custody of the child, you just need to prove it. Suitable documents for proof of sole managing conservatorship can include:

  • Your divorce decree and/or a court order granting you sole custody 
  • Official copy of the child’s birth certificate which lists you as the only parent
  • Official copy of the child’s adoption decree which lists you as the only parent
  • Official copy of the death certificate of the other parent.

If you have full legal custody of the child, you are the only parent who needs to sign the application or appear with the minor at the passport office. Add your proof of custody to your other required documentation, and then make an appointment at the passport office nearest you.

Passport Photo Online

Depending on the age of the children, getting good passport photos can be challenging. Infants are especially difficult to photograph. Do you really want to take your kids to the post office or drug store to get their passport photographs made? Why not take your child’s photo yourself, in the convenience and privacy of your own home?

This easy-to-use passport photo app turns your living room into an online photo booth. Don’t worry about getting the exact size and specifications—the app handles all that automatically. Take as many pictures as you like to get it right—you only pay for the final finished product. It’s fast and it’s easy, and best of all it’s cheap.

Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

Parents can enroll minor children into CPIAP, the US State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. This is used to prevent international parental child abduction. When someone submits a passport application for a child enrolled in CPIAP, the US Department of State alerts the other parent to see if they approve. 

It is entirely possible that the other parent may have a court order on file with the CPIAP to automatically deny a child’s passport application. You will need to reach out to the other parent and somehow persuade them to sign the statement of consent form DS-3053.

Child’s passport – happy traveling for you and your kids

Whether they are visiting relatives overseas or accompanying a parent on an international vacation, your child needs a passport. Applying for a passport for a minor child is only a little more difficult than getting your own passport. Single parents have a few more requirements, but please don’t let this slow you down. Many people develop their love of travel at an early age, and international travel will broaden your child’s mind as it broadens their horizons.


Can I hold my baby in their passport photo?

No. The photo must be of the applicant, and only the applicant alone. No other people can appear in the photo, not even part of another person (such as hands).

Isn’t it illegal to make a photocopy of a child’s birth certificate?

At the passport acceptance facility, you need to submit a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate for inspection, and a copy for the passport office to keep for their records. The copy you give them to keep can be a high-quality photocopy OR another certified copy from your state’s State Department; this is up to you.

Must I make an appointment to apply at a passport acceptance facility, or are walk-ins still welcome?

Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, most if not all US passport acceptance offices have converted to an appointment-only scheme. Check online in advance for their hours of operation and make an appointment if necessary. Be advised that lines for walk-ins are likely to belong and are slow-moving.

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