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Do I Need Permission for International Travel?

International travel rules for parents with shared custody, sole custody, and other special circumstances.

Do I need permission to travel out of the country with my child?

Yes. Both parents or guardians must consent if you are traveling out of the country with a child. If you have sole custody of your child, then you will need to prove that you are the sole guardian. To re-enter the country, your child must have a passport or Trusted Traveler Program document for U.S. entry.

Person with a passport

How do I obtain a U.S. passport for my child to travel internationally?

To get a passport for a minor child, both parents or guardians should go with the child to apply for a passport in-person. As outlined by the U.S. Department of State, for all children under 16 years old, parents or guardians must follow these steps:

  1. Fill out form DS-11 (the application for a U.S. passport)
  2. Provide U.S. citizenship evidence
  3. Bring a photocopy of U.S. citizenship evidence
  4. Show parental relationship
  5. Present ID
  6. Bring a photocopy of ID
  7. Show parental consent
  8. Provide a photo
  9. Calculate fees
  10. Find location to apply and submit your completed application
  11. Track your application status

View the passport application steps for 16 and 17-year-olds here.

Father and son walking through an airport

How do I get a passport for my child if the other parent is absent?

If applying for a passport with both parents or guardians present is not possible, there are numerous steps you need to take depending on your situation.

Only one parent has custody

If you have sole legal custody of your child, you must submit evidence with your application. This evidence might include:

  • A court order or divorce decree
  • A certified birth certificate or adoption decree listing you as the only parent
  • A certified copy of the judicial declaration of incompetence of the parent who cannot appear
  • A certified death certificate

One parent cannot be present

Alternatively, if one parent is simply unable to appear, they must complete a special form signed and dated in front of a notary public. They must also include a photocopy of the front and backside of a government-issued ID.

Mother and son on an airplane

One parent cannot be located

If you cannot locate the child’s other parent, there is yet another special form you must provide. Usually, the government will ask for additional evidence as well, such as a custody order, a restraining order, etc. According to the Department of Homeland Security, if the child's other parent is deployed by the military, they can provide a notarized version of the special form. If the child's other parent cannot be contacted, you must provide military orders with the special form showing that they can't be reached because they are on a special assignment for more than 30 days outside of their duty station. Alternatively, you can provide a signed statement from the non-applying parent's commanding officer that they can't be reached.

One parent denies permission to travel

What happens if you do not have sole custody, but your child’s other parent will not permit you to travel internationally? You will need to go to court to apply for permission to travel with them, and present information about your trip in front of a judge or magistrate. The court will consider all factors including whether there are any current custody disputes.

How do I get my child’s passport records?

If you need to document your child’s passport records, you can mail in a request with the following included:

  • A notarized letter with this information:
    • Full name, date and place of birth of the child
    • Address and telephone number for the requesting parent/legal guardian
    • Reason for needing the child's passport information.
  • Appropriate fee:
    • For a copy of their issued passport application, there is no fee.
    • For an authenticated copy of the passport application, the fee is $30.00 for the first copy and $20.00 for each additional copy.

Parents who use TalkingParents for shared custody matters can safely store their child’s passport records with Vault File Storage. This is a private, secure storage space where you can keep important documentation. Should you need to share your child’s passport records with anyone else, you can share the file directly from your Vault via email to any third party. Learn more.

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