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Family Law Newsletter

U.S. Department of State Implements Two-Parent Consent Law

In July 2001, the United States Department of State implemented a law regarding passport application procedures. Under the Two-Parent Consent Law, as amended in 2008, both parents are required to consent to the passport application for a minor U.S. citizen under the age of 16. By putting this law into practice, the Department of State sought to decrease the likelihood that a U.S. passport will be used to facilitate an international parental child abduction.

Basic Requirements of the Law

Under U.S. immigration law, passport applications for minor children under age 16 must be filed in person by a parent or an individual specially authorized as a person “in loco parentis.” (This term is used to identify a foster parent, or other appropriate authority, e.g., a county custodial agency, protecting the minor’s legal rights). The minor must appear in person when applying for the passport. Either parent, whether a U.S. citizen or not, may apply for a U.S. passport on behalf of the minor child. However, in addition to establishing the child’s identity and U.S. citizenship, the adult applicant must also document his or her compliance with the Two-Parent Consent Law.

Under this law, both parents must consent to the issuance of a U.S. passport for their child under the age of 16. In the alternative, the applying parent must document his or her sole authority to obtain a passport for the child. In other words, before a U.S. passport may be issued to a child under age 16, the adult applicant must be able to produce documentation of one of the following:

  • Evidence of sole custody
  • A court order allowing the parent (or legal guardian) to travel with the child
  • Notarized written consent of the other parent, or a written statement explaining why the non-applying parent’s consent cannot be obtained

Coverage and Exceptions

The Two-Parent Consent Law applies to all passport applications made at domestic U.S. passport agencies in the U.S. The law also covers passport applications made at U.S. consular offices abroad.

In the event of special family situations or exigent circumstances calling for the child’s immediate travel, exceptions to the requirements of the Two-Parent Consent Law may apply.

Applicability to Grandparents

Grandparents may not apply for the passport of a grandchild unless they have a document of guardianship or written authority that complies with the Two-Parent Consent Law.

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