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How to Get a Passport for Your Child under Exigent or Special Family Circumstances

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Sad teen girl by deposit123/DepositPhotos

Family vacations are the stuff of lifelong memories. Twenty-five years later, you're still telling stories about that time your ATV got a little too close to the edge of a cliff in Colorado, or that night on the beach in Florida when you all sat side-by-side watching the moon rise out of the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes family travel takes a different turn. One travel memory you don't want to add to your reminiscences is, "Remember the time we couldn't get Madeline a passport to see her own brother when he was stationed in Japan and had that terrible surf accident?" Things happen, and sometimes families are caught unprepared.

When you apply for a passport for a child age 16 or under, one requirement is that both parents are present with the child at the passport acceptance facility to authorize its issuance. You have to supply the child's birth certificate and your own identifications to establish your legal relationships to the child. If either parent who is listed by name on the birth certificate is not presenting identification, it will be a no go. The only exception is presenting notarized Form DS-3053, Statement of Consent, from the non-applying parent. However, the U.S. Department of State has put a process in place for families with special circumstances.

If you find yourself in a position where your minor under 16 years of age needs a passport to travel internationally, and you cannot obtain the notarized written consent of the non-applying parent, you can download the two-page Form DS-5525, Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances for Issuance of a U.S. Passport to a Minor Under Age 16. The whole first page is just directions to fill out the form. The second page is the actual form you fill out and submit with the child's passport application.

The requirements for using this form are:

  1. The passport is needed for a minor child under 16
  2. There is a time-sensitive reason requiring the passport to be expedited
  3. The reason for the passport to be expedited must be related to the health or welfare of the child
  4. You cannot obtain the notarized written consent of the absent custodial parent

Questions 1-6 on Form DS-5525 are identifying questions. You will enter the name and date of birth of your child, and the name(s) of the non-applying parent with that parent;s date of birth. You'll also need to enter contact information of the non-applying parent including, last known address, telephone number, and e-mail address, if you know them. If you're unsure of any of the answers to questions 3-6, write "I don't know" in the space provided. Guessing may delay the process.

Questions 7 and 8 are where you acknowledge any court documents related to your child's custody or international travel, or to the incarceration status of the absent parent. You must attach copies of these legal documents to the form as evidence. These may include a divorce decree, custody order, restraining order, or travel order, or other court order relating to the child, or evidence of incarceration related to the absent parent.

Question 9 is your opportunity to explain in detail why the passport should be granted under exigent special family circumstances. Discuss the purpose for travel as it relates to the health or welfare of your child, what time constraints require the passport to be expedited, and detailed attempts to contact the custodial non-applying parent, including the results of those attempts, and any documentation you may have supporting your efforts. Include again in this section, the non-applying parent's last known contact information as listed above and place of employment, if known.

The last section is to record any efforts you used to contact the absent custodial parent through a third party such as a relative, friend, or acquaintance. For each third party, you need to include their name, relationship to the non-applying parent, dates and results of attempts to contact, and the address or phone number they used to attempt to contact. If you didn't use a third party, leave this section blank. Take note that Form DS-5525 must be signed only by the custodial parent applying for the passport and that it is signed under oath.

Keep in mind that first-time passports for minors under 16 must be submitted in person at a passport agency or passport acceptance facility. In this situation, the applying parent listed on the birth certificate must accompany the minor. You will need to fill out passport application form DS-11, and submit your child's birth certificate, your ID establishing parental relationship, a passport photo of your child, DS-5525 applying for exigent special family circumstances and supporting documents, and a passport book fee of $80, plus a $25 execution fee. Add another $15 to also get a passport card. Sign forms DS-11 and DS-5525 in the presence of the application acceptance agent who will administer the oath. Expediting fees may also apply. Once obtained, the minor's passport is valid for five years.

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