How to Properly Use a Guardian's Surname on a Minor's Passport Application
The U.S. government is very particular when it comes to issuing passports for minor U.S. citizens
Safeguards have been put in place to prevent international illegal
child abductions by parents with shared custody, guardians, and others
who have a claim to a child, but may not have the sole legal rights as
parent or guardian. In an effort to ensure the safety of minor U.S.
citizens, the Department of State has set up a Children's Passport
Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) whereby parents and legal guardians will
be notified before issuing a passport to a minor. Sometimes, when a
minor assumes the surname of a guardian without a legal name change, it
can complicate the overall picture for everyone.
Following the rules set by the Department of State regarding
minor name changes will help to expedite the process of obtaining a
passport for a minor and ensure that everyone involved is protected.
When a minor has assumed a guardian's surname, the guardian cannot use
that surname on a passport application unless there has been a court
order granting the minor's name change to the guardian's surname. For
example, a child is orphaned and a relative who has been named legal
guardian of the child and raised him or her for several years using the
relative's surname, may think it is no big deal to apply for the
passport in the guardian's surname. This is incorrect. The guardian's
surname can only be used for the minor's passport application if the
surname has been legally established by a court order.
A reasonable alternative is to use the guardian's name as a
"known as" name on the passport application. In this case, the child's
legal name would be listed on the passport application. Additionally,
the child's name with the guardian's surname would be added as an
additional "known as name."
The guardian would need to provide evidence that the minor used the surname for at least five years.
Documentary evidence of the minor's use of the guardian's surname would
be sworn affidavits from the guardian(s) under penalty of perjury that
the minor child used the guardian's surname for at least the last five
years. Additionally, the guardian would need to provide public records
substantiating the claim such as school or medical records showing the
minor used the guardian's surname. If this criteria is met, then the
guardian could apply for the minor's passport in the minor's legal name
with the addition of a second name using the guardian's surname as a
"known as" name for the child. The "known as" second name on the
passport is the only acceptable alternative to a court ordered legal name change
The parent(s) or guardian(s) of minors must always establish their relationship to the child
with documentary evidence in a passport application for the protection
of the child. Typically, parents establish this relationship with a U.S. birth certificate
, a foreign birth certificate
, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad
Divorced parents additionally have to present a court order divorce
decree establishing sole legal custody of the child, and when the
custody is joint with the other parent, the absent parent also has to
submit a signed Statement of Consent
before the child can obtain a passport. In the case of adoptive
parents, a decree of adoption establishes this relationship, and in the
case of guardianship, a court order giving the guardian sole legal
custody would establish the legal relationship to the child. Without
evidence of the legal relationship of the guardian to the child, no
passport can be issued regardless of any surname issues.
If you are the legal guardian to a minor U.S. citizen, go ahead
and submit a passport application. Nothing helps a child become a
thoughtful global citizen like international travel
Just be sure to follow the rules established by the Department of
State, and obtain the minor passport properly. After all, the process
is set up to protect the child you love.
How do you feel about the Department of State's rules for the
use of guardian surnames when obtaining minor passports? Does it
unnecessarily complicate the process, or do you think it's a necessary
part of the process?
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