If you plan to travel internationally with your family, you must know that every member of the family needs to possess his or her own passport. All children must have passports, and minors under the age of 16 (sixteen) need to renew their passports every 5 (five) years.
Since 2001, the U.S. State Department has required children to apply for their passports in person with 2 (two) parents or guardians present.
But not every child has both parents who can be present and single parents are often confused as to how to go about filing their child’s passport application. 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, parents cannot renew their child’s travel document using passport renewal form DS-82; form DS-11 for a replacement passport has to be filed. 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, 2×2 inch 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 (twelve) to 18 (eighteen) weeks.
The other parent is unavailable
Maybe the other parent is living in another state, on active military duty in another country, incarcerated, or otherwise unable to attend. What happens, then? In that case, parents have some additional paperwork in front of them.
If you want to get a child’s passport with one parent absent, the missing parent must give their consent. To do it, they will need to fill out form DS-3053, notarize it, and submit the completed form with the child’s application.
The absent parent must also provide a photocopy of their valid government-issued photo ID (i.e., the same ID they use to identify themselves to the notary public).
Find out more about passports from these articles:
- Getting a Passport for an Autistic Child
- Passport for a Baby in Texas – How to Apply
- Does My Child Need a New Passport When She Turns 16?
- Does a Child Need to Be Present for a Passport Application – Quick Answer
- What Do I Need for a Children’s Passport?
- At What Age Does a Child Need a Passport?
- Does a Child Need a Passport for Cruises?
The other parent is missing
Say that for some reason, the other parent is unable to give their written consent for the child to get a passport. Perhaps they’re deliberately avoiding you, in solitary confinement, or maybe they’re in a coma. For such special circumstances, the “statement of special family circumstances” form DS-5525 will have to be completed. In this case, the present parent or guardian will need to submit evidence and supply as much additional information as possible. 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 6 (six) months. You will need to consult an attorney.
There is no other parent
If a parent or guardian already has sole legal custody of the child, they just need to prove it. Suitable documents for proof of sole managing conservatorship can include:
- a divorce decree and/or a court order granting 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 the parent or guardian has full legal custody of the child, they 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 taken? Why not take your child’s photo yourself, in the convenience and privacy of your own home?
Passport Photo Online, an 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.
On top of that, Passport Photo Online will take care of such things as:
- replacing the background with a plain white one;
- cropping your child’s photo to the correct size;
- removing red-eye and even some minor shadows, toys, hands, or any other unwanted objects.
Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
Parents can enroll minor children into CPIAP, the U.S. 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 travel document. 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.
If you’re a single parent and need to get a passport for your child with the other parent absent, you probably appreciate time-saving solutions. For a fast and stress-free passport picture for your child, try Passport Photo Online. It’s the most convenient way of taking babies’ and children’s passport pictures from the comfort of your own home.
Now that we have covered the basics of how to apply for a child’s U.S. passport with one parent absent, let us answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this topic.
Can I hold my baby in their passport photo?
No. The passport 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). The advanced Passport Photo Online app removes the background from photos, including any unwanted objects or even people. So if you wish to hold your baby for their passport photo, feel free to do so as you will be removed from the image and a white background will be added instead.
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?
It depends on the passport acceptance facility you wish to apply with. Many U.S. 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 be long and are slow-moving.
-  https://eforms.state.gov/Forms/ds3053.pdf
-  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/need-passport/
Bryan is a writer and filmmaker originally from Texas who has sailed around the world. Thanks to his experience in the cruise industry and customer service, he understands what customers feel and needs, and as a result of numerous travels he has specialized in passport photography. Bryan is the author of FOG WATCH published on Amazon.