Kids's Passport Rules: What Single Parents Need to Know

It's possible to get a passport with only one parent's signature

Mother and daughters standing outside of airport with luggage

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The time has come. You've been saving up your hard-earned money for years, and now you're ready to treat your family to the trip of a lifetime. But then you go to get your kids' passports, and you discover that the application requires both parents' signatures.

For many single parents, securing the other signature is simply not possible. In all too many cases, the other parent is unreachable, by his or her own choice. Does that mean you can never get your kids' passports and take them on that trip you've been dreaming of? Not necessarily. Kids' passport rules were developed to keep kids safe from international parental abductions. But there are legitimate ways to get around kids' passport rules—specifically for single parents who are unable to obtain the other parent's signature.

Recent Changes to Kids' Passport Rules

In 2001, the U.S. government began requiring both parents' signatures on children's passport applications. This rule applies to new passports for children under the age of 14. Up until that point, it was possible for one parent to complete a child's passport application without the other parent being in agreement with it or even knowing it was happening.

As of 2007, passports are now required for ground and air travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Before 2007, it was possible for kids to enter these countries without their own passports as long as the adult traveling had a passport.

Kids' Passport Application Process

The dual-parent signature rule was created for a good reason, and if it's possible to have your ex-spouse sign your kids' passport applications, you'll want to follow the regular process. The steps include the following:

  1. Print out a passport application.
  2. Complete everything on the application except the signatures.
  3. Make an appointment to meet your ex at your local passport office and bring your child with you.
  4. Bring all of the required documentation with you, including your child's birth certificate and your ID.
  5. Sign the application in the presence of passport officials. (If you sign it in advance, your signature will be void and you'll have to start over.)

Alternatives to the Dual-Parent Signature Rule

Obviously, the dual-parent signature rule doesn't work for all families. If it would be physically impossible to obtain the other parent's signature on your child's passport application, you have a couple of options.

If the other parent is in agreement about applying for your child's passport but cannot accompany you to the passport office, he or she can complete a Statement of Consent and have it notarized to prove the authenticity of the signature. Once you have this documentation, take it with you to the passport office and show it to the officials.

If the other parent is unavailable, complete the "Statement of Special Circumstances," which can be found at the bottom of the Statement of Consent. This will allow you to explain why it is not possible for the other parent to give consent.

Exceptions to the Dual-Parent Signature Rule

As with most rules, there are some exceptions. If only one parent is listed on the child's birth certificate, then two signatures are not required. If you have sole custody of your child, submit the court order establishing custody along with your child's passport application.

Tips for Protecting Your Children From Passport Abuse

The government's rules for obtaining kids' passports were designed to protect children from being taken across international borders without permission or during a child custody dispute. 

If you fear your child's other parent may attempt to apply for a passport without your consent, you should contact your local passport office and have your child's name added to the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program.

Some countries will still require a notarized letter from the child's other parent before permitting you to enter the country. Contact the U.S. Embassy where you are traveling to find out it this rule applies in the country you want to visit.