Even if you have sole legal custody, you must provide a copy of the court order granting sole custody to the applying parent (unless child’s travel is restricted by that order).
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection strongly recommend having the other parent’s written permission if it is not included in the court order as many other countries may require it.
International parenting time and travel have unique challenges. Children may leave the country without restriction, but cannot return without proof of citizenship. Passports and visas are required. The primary custodial parent should safeguard these documents and make them easily available to the other parent at the scheduled times and places of exchange for foreign travel. Likewise, the documents should be returned promptly at the conclusion of parenting time. The noncustodial parent should keep copies of important travel documents. For the latest requirements, review the crossing borders section of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security web page. For long‐term planning, review the information found in the U.S. Department of State Office of Children’s Issues. For more information, visit U.S. Department of State Passports for Minors Under 16.
For children under 16 years old, both parents’ signatures are required on the application. Both parents or legal guardians must present evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship, present evidence that they are the parents or guardian(s), show valid personal identification, and take the oath before an authorized passport acceptance agent. If one parent is unable to appear, proof of sole custody (divorce decree, death certificate, etc.) or form DS-3053 is required.
For general tips to prevent child abduction, see the State Department’s International Parent Child Abduction Prevention Tips page for more information.
If you are in the middle of a custody case, you may be able to ask the judge to seize (hold on to) the child’s passport. If there is no ongoing case, you may be able to file for a restraining order, and ask the judge to hold the child’s passport as part of that case.
If the child does not have a passport, but you fear the other parent may apply for one for the child, the State Department has a program called the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. Visit the U.S. Department of State Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) for details. The program allows parents to register their U.S. citizen children under the age of 18 in the Department’s Passport Lookout System.
To enter your child into the program, complete the Request for Entry into Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, provide proof of your identity (a photocopy of your driver’s license or other ID card), and submit a photocopy of your child’s birth certificate or other documentation to show that you are the child’s parent or legal guardian. Mail, fax or email these items to Passport Services, Charleston Passport Center:
U.S. Department of State
Passport Services, Charleston Passport Center
Attn: Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
1269 Holland Street, Building D
Charleston, SC 29405
Phone: 1 (843) 202-3863
Note: If your child has dual citizenship, the child may be able to travel out of the country on the passport of the foreign country. Since the State Department cannot regulate passports from other countries, you may want to contact that country’s embassy or consulate to ask if it has a similar program. Find contact information for specific embassies and consulates.