The good news is – it’s possible, in pretty much every instance! The challenging news is that if you live outside of the U.S., you may need to take a few additional steps. Read on!
One of the most frequently asked questions in the Single Parents Who Travel Facebook group has to do with traveling abroad with kids, when and if the other custodial parent hasn’t given consent, or hasn’t signed off on the passport of the child or children.
Maybe they’re MIA.
Maybe they’re in jail.
Maybe they’re contrarian.
Maybe they could care less about your kids’ travels and just haven’t signed off on the forms.
Maybe the “co-parent” doesn’t technically exist because you’re a single parent by choice.
Whatever the reason, if you want to travel abroad with your kids but don’t have the cooperation of the other parent, what do you do?
We put together this handy information guide on how to (hopefully, easily) go about obtaining a passport for your kid or kids and travel abroad with them anyway!
But first, please note: Single Parents Who Travel is not a legal entity and does not provide legal services. This and all blog posts are strictly meant to share information as well as experiences that have worked for members of our parent group. Be sure to contact a lawyer if you have any legal-related questions. All information provided in this blog is based on today’s information as of [date of posting]. We highly recommend you make sure to check the travel.state.gov website for the most current information. Also, please note that according to the U.S. Passport Service Guide, which is federal, the following tips we will share for obtaining a passport are applicable in all 50 states.
Now that we’ve gotten that business out of the way, here are a couple of scenarios you might be facing as a single parent – and some possible ways you can get around them.
Let’s start with how you can obtain a U.S. passport for minors (characterized as a child aged 15 years old and under). If your child is 16 years old and above, you can skip the information below as they must undergo a different passport application process, one where they can possibly even apply on their own, unaccompanied by a parent. We will talk more about this in a future blog!
But if your child is a minor, keep reading!
What if your child has never had a passport before. Can you just fill out an application for him or her online and be done with it?
Unfortunately, no. After filling out the application (but not signing it!), you must go to the passport acceptance facility to personally apply for your child’s passport as you’ll need to sign the form in front of an acceptance agent.
You can digitally fill out the passport application form online though, or print it out and fill it out by hand in black or blue ink.
A “designated” passport facility includes many local post offices, public libraries, clerks of court, and/or county, township, and municipal government offices. Some of these acceptance facilities require appointments though so as a first step you should go online and find out what the steps are to getting an appointment at one before calling there (some places will simply direct you to voicemail anyway). You can find an acceptance facility near you by clicking this link.
Then, once you’re at your appointment, only sign the application form when the acceptance agent asks you to do so. You should be prepared to submit the application form along with supporting documents that prove your parental relationship to your child (i.e., birth certificate, divorce/custody decree, or adoption decree), as well as proof of their U.S citizenship, their picture, and a photocopy of the front and back of one of your IDs, either a passport, driver’s license, Government employee I.D, or U.S Green Card. The more information or documents you provide, the faster the process of the issuance of your child’s passport.
If you are an American citizen living outside the U.S., you can typically go to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate to submit the application form and supporting documents. However, the process varies country by country, so it is best to contact the U.S. embassy of the country in which you reside before heading to the facility. You may check your country’s local contact information at this link.
Once the acceptance agent approves the application and submitted documents, you will then need to submit a check or money order (made out to the U.S Department of State) as payment for the application fee of (currently) $100. Credit or debit cards are not acceptable as a mode of payment for this fee.
You’ll then pay another $35, which you need to pay separately, for the execution fee. You can pay this via check, cash, or credit card, depending on the form of payment the acceptance facility you are visiting allows.
Then be prepared to sit back and wait for up to 8 weeks for your child’s passport to be delivered to your home address. If you live in the U.S. and need to receive the passport within 4-6 weeks instead, you can pay an additional expedited service cost of $60 via check or money order made out to the U.S Department of State. Submit this expedited fee along with the application fee, application form, and supporting documents to the acceptance agent.
What if your minor child already has a passport that now just needs to be renewed?
A minor’s passport is only valid for 5 years and cannot simply be renewed online or via the mail. If your child is still minor during the time of their passport renewal, you cannot use the passport renewal form that we (adults) use; instead, you’ll need to apply all over again in person, pay all the necessary fees and submit a revised version of the same application form and supporting documents you submitted previously to your nearby passport acceptance facility.
Now, here comes the part that sometimes trips us up as single parents if we’re not aware of our options
If you are the only parent on the birth certificate or a single parent by choice, you don’t need to worry about getting consent from the other parent.
Simply include in your application documents a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate proving that you are the only parent written on it.
If you are an adoptive parent, include your adoption decree.
Otherwise, you and your co-parent will both need to be physically present when applying for your child’s passport.
Below are some case-by-case scenarios and workarounds if that’s simply not possible.
What if the co-parent can’t make it on the day you go in person to process your child’s passport application?
Then, you’ll have to ask your co-parent to provide a notarized consent letter indicating they’ve given their consent for the issuance of a passport for your child. He/she should provide this letter using the “Statement of Consent” form, which they’ll need to bring to and sign in the presence of a certified notary public prior to giving it to you.
This consent letter is only valid for 90 days from the day it was notarized, therefore you’ll need to file your child’s passport application before the notarized consent letter expires.
If the co-parent lives abroad or out-of-state, they’ll need to mail you the original notarized consent letter plus a photocopy of the back and front of their I.D., such as a passport, driver’s license, Government employee I.D., or U.S. Green Card. (The photocopy) of their I.D. should be the same as what they presented to the notary public. Make sure they’re aware of the 90-day expiration period so they get it to you pronto.
Please note: in certain countries like Jamaica, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, the consent letter should be notarized at the country’s U.S. Embassy and Consulate. For a full list of countries where this applies please click this link.
What if the other parent refuses to give you a consent letter? Can you apply without their consent?
Yes and no. You can apply for your child’s passport without the other parent’s consent if you have sole custody of your child, you are the only adoptive parent, or, as mentioned, you are the only parent on your child’s birth certificate.
If you don’t fall under these categories, you cannot apply for your child’s passport without the consent of the co-parent. Technically, the co-parent has the right to refuse consent and may also not agree to let you take out-of-state travel with your child within certain periods of time, particularly times that may affect their visitation rights. This law, good, bad or ugly, is designed to prevent international parental child abduction.
If the co-parent has refused to provide a consent letter and you are experiencing consistent blocks from him or her in getting your child’s passport or taking your child abroad, you may want to pursue legal action. It’s possible to petition the court for sole legal custody or a custody modification that would permit you to apply for your child’s passport and travel with them internationally without the other parent’s consent. Reach out to a lawyer for further advice.
What if the other parent is MIA and you cannot reach him or her, even after you’ve reached out to their relatives or friends?
There are some instances where the other parent has gone missing in action after the child’s birth or even before the child is born. Some simply disappear after separation or divorce.
If you are in this position, you can fill out a statement of exigent/special family circumstances form that briefly explains why it’s not possible for him or her to provide a consent letter. You’ll need to submit this form during your appointment to the acceptance agent.
In the form, you should describe all your efforts to locate and contact the other parent. You’ll want to provide the number of times you attempted to reach out to him or her through the phone number, email, mailing address, or social media channels you have on file.
You may also want to describe the extent to which you attempted to reach out to him or her through friends and relatives.
Providing documentation that contains a record of all calls, messages, emails, and any other proof that supports your efforts can be helpful. However, submitting it may not guarantee your child’s passport issuance, as the statement of exigent/special family circumstances form and the documentation you provide are still subject to evaluation. The acceptance agent may ask you to provide additional documentation depending on the result of their evaluation, but the more information you provide initially, the higher the chance of getting your child’s passport processed the first time out.
What if the military has deployed the co-parent? What can you do if you cannot contact him or her due to their special assignment?
If the military deploys your co-parent, he or she will just need to send you a notarized consent letter, as indicated above. You may then submit this along with the passport application and other aforementioned supporting documents.
In the rare case that the co-parent cannot be contacted and can’t provide a notarized consent letter, you’ll need to submit a statement of exigent/special family circumstances form with either a signed statement from their commanding officer that you cannot reach them due to their special assignment or with military orders that show they cannot be contacted because they are on a special assignment for more than 30 days outside of their duty station.
What if the co-parent is incarcerated, deceased, or physically or mentally incapable of providing a consent letter?
If the other parent is incarcerated, you’ll need to submit a statement of exigent/special family circumstances form to the acceptance agent along with a certified copy of any of the following documents:
- A letter of convicting criminal court
- A copy of the incarceration court order
- A copy of the on-line inmate locator page.
If the other parent is deceased, you’ll need to submit, among other aforementioned documents, a certified copy of their death certificate.
If the other parent is physically or mentally incapable of giving written consent, you’ll need to provide medical documentation of their condition.
Here are some last tips to keep in mind in not only obtaining but using a passport for your child!
- Some countries may require more than just a passport when entering their country. Some require a notarized travel consent letter from a co-parent. Here’s a list of current countries that may require a notarized travel consent letter upon entry and exit when a child is traveling with only one parent:
- Please also note that according to the U.S Customs and Border Protection, parents traveling with minors who have arrived by land or sea from Canada or Mexico should be prepared to present an original or photocopy of the child’s birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate along with their passport upon entry into the country.
- You as the parent must also be prepared to present a notarized travel consent letter from the co-parent to the acceptance agent stating, “I acknowledge that my son/daughter is traveling outside the country with [the name of the other parent] with my permission.”
- There is no official form you can fill out for the travel consent letter for minors but the U.S Passport Service Guide provides a downloadable form you can use. Download it at this link.
- If you’re in the process of a divorce, it is wise to consult an attorney who can help you include a travel or vacation clause for your child/children in your decree to prevent disagreements later about your child or children’s travels.
- If you have any additional questions about how to go about getting a passport for your minor child, or obtain the consent letter needed to take them out of the country, you may reach out to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs for more guidance.
In summary, obtaining a passport for your minor child can be challenging, especially without the cooperation of the other parent. It can be stressful and may require a lot of patience.
But don’t let what could potentially be a lengthy process stop you from exploring the world with your little one! In no time, you’ll start planning your family’s dream vacation with the ability to go practically anywhere!
Single parents, do you have stories of triumph to share about being able to successfully get your child a passport despite opposition or challenges from the co-parent? Share it with us in the comments section below!