To help protect children under the age of 16 from international child abduction, there are special rules governing the passport application process for them. The forms that are used for passport renewal for children are also different from the forms used for passport renewal for adults.
Child passports expire after just 5 years. Unlike adults, children must appear in person to renew their passports. They are not eligible for passport renewal by mail. Instead of using Form DS-82 like an adult would, children use Form DS-11, the same form an adult would use when applying for a passport for the first time. This form must be signed in person at a passport acceptance facility. Acceptance facilities are usually located in post offices and libraries; the Department of State’s website will show you the closest location.
You may sign the form for your child if your child is too young to do so, but do not sign it until the acceptance agent tells you to. Otherwise, you’ll have to redo the application form.
There are other passport-related forms that are specific to minors. Ideally, both parents will be at the passport office when the child applies, but for many busy families this is simply not practical. Both parents must give permission for a child to be issued a passport. If only one parent can attend, he or she must bring a notarized Form DS-3053 signed by the other parent.
Parents with sole custody of the child in question may provide proof that they have sole custody, such as a birth certificate with only their name on it, an adoption decree with only their name on it, evidence that the other parent is deceased or legally incompetent or a court order.
To apply for a passport for your child, you’ll also need government-issued photo ID for you, evidence of your relationship to the child (such as a birth certificate, adoption decree or court order awarding you custody) and proof of citizenship for the child.
These passport renewal requirements may seem onerous, but they help keep children from being abducted to other countries where it is difficult to retrieve them, whether by a parent in a custody dispute or a stranger.
Alison Kroulek is a freelance writer and blogger with a focus on the travel industry.