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Travel Documents For Children

We are frequently asked for information on what documentation is needed for traveling internationally with children. Although I normally make my husband fill out all the paperwork, here's some additional tips.

First, the required information: All U.S. citizens regardless of age must have their own passport if they are traveling internationally, even to Canada and Mexico.   A Passport Card can be used for auto and ship travel to Canada and Mexico from the U.S. but AAA recommends a passport in the event you have to fly back in.
All first-time applicants , regardless of age, must apply in person at a passport office or acceptance facility. First time applicants under 16 must apply in person with both parents/guardians present or follow Parental Consent guidelines using Form DS-3053. Renewal of passports originally issued to minors must also be done in person. There are special passport requirements for minors under age 16 and for 16- and 17-year-olds and 16 and 17 year-olds must establish parental consent. Read all requirements carefully at the official U.S. State Department website.

When we recently went to renew our children’s passports, the office (in our case at the local DMV) asked us for additional documents which we luckily had with us: original birth certificate and a copy (front and back) of both parents’ drivers’ licenses. The copy of the license can be made (for a small fee, of course) at the passport office but you’ll have to make a trip home if you don’t have the birth certificates. Note: both parents/legal guardians must be present. For those of you planning spring break or summer trips, be sure to check when your child’s passport expires. Our friendly travel documentation expert down hall says:  If the expiration date is within 6 months of your trip, renew before you go. This applies to adults as well. If this sends you into a panic, see below for how to expedite your processing.
 
In an effort to keep children safe while traveling internationally, many governments require documentation of relationship and permission of the parent(s) or legal guardian not present for the child's travel. If minor children are traveling abroad with or without both parents and guardians, a notarized letter of consent  is a good thing to have. Parents of minor children (under 18 years old) should carefully document legal custody prior to traveling. Be sure to make copies of all of your travel documents and take one set with you and leave a set at home. Happy travels!

HELPFUL VIDEOS
AAA Video: What documents to take  
AAA Video: Getting a Passport or Visa   
AAA Video: International Driving Permits 
AAA Video: Travel Insurance & Trip Interruption  

RELATED LINKS
Proof of vaccinations or inoculations  
Lost documents  
Expedited passport processing    
Travisa Visa and passport processing and expediting.  AAA has a partnership with Travisa for visa and passport services offering AAA members preferred rates processing fees.   

Complete international travel planning, including independent and escorted European tours, passport photos and International Driving Permits are available at your local AAA office.
  • Amy C.

    What do you mean by "document legal custody"? My husband and I are planning a trip to Argentina with our young child later this year, so this is a timely post. Thanks for the good info!

  • Renuka Sastri

    Amy, if both parents are traveling with the child, you don’t need any addiitional paperwork beyond the required passports, visas, etc. The issue only really comes up when one or the other parent is traveling with the child out of the country. Have a great trip!

  • Maria Kendall

    I will be travelling to the Philippines with both my kids and without my spouse. One is 16 and the other 12. Other than the Letter of Consent and their Passports, what other documentations should I bring?

  • Community Manager

    Maria, You can find more information about the travel documents needed for children in these blog posts http://ww3.aaa.com/travelviews/post/2010/01/26/Travel-Documents-For-Children.aspx and
    http://ww3.aaa.com/travelviews/post/2011/04/26/Travel-Documentation-for-Solo-Travel.aspx

    You can also find country specific travel information on the U.S. Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_999.html

  • ashley andrews

    i am in the military and i seperate tomorrow and im stationed in germany.for some time i have been trying to have my birth certificate sent to me so i can get my 7month old a passport. come tomorrow if im not on a plane i will be considered here illegally. ill have no income,no place to live. is there any way i can get a letter of authorization for travel for my son so we can go back to the states? ill still have my military id card as well as the orders that have my son on them.

  • Community Manager

    Ashley- Thank you for your comment. We suggest contacting the Army directly for assistance or the American Consulate in Germany. You can find out more on their website http://germany.usembassy.gov/ and their locations http://1.usa.gov/Mjm9Dv

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