Going Nowhere Fast, Part II: Using PassPort Controls to Insure Your Child Stays in the U.S.

May 31, 2012

In part one of Going Nowhere Fast, I talked about the headaches of getting a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16.  As big of a hassle as the dual parental consent process may be, there are very good reasons for it, which are the topic of this blog entry.

Simply put, the U.S. government doesn’t care nearly as much about people exiting the country as it does about people entering the country.  U.S. border officials don’t routinely check travel documents of people leaving the U.S.  TSA screening rules don’t require minors to have photo ID at airport checkpoints.  Border officials of a foreign country may refuse to let a child enter their country without a valid passport, but relying on another nation’s border patrol to do the right thing can be a dangerous gamble.  One of the reasons the U.S. makes it so difficult for minors to obtain passports is because the passport application is the last real line of defense to keep children from being taken out of the country without both parents’ permission.

As I discussed in my previous blog entry, in most cases, a child cannot get a passport unless both parents consent, either by appearing in person with the child at the passport agency or by signing a special consent form from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.  If you’re concerned that your child’s other parent may flee the U.S. with the child, you can use these rules to protect the child by withholding consent.  Though the other parent may still try to seek a court order allowing the child to travel abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to tell the judge your worries and argue why he or she shouldn’t grant the order.

Additionally, any parent whose parental rights have not been terminated may register their child’s name with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).  The CPIAP will contact the registered parent if anyone–even a parent with sole legal custody–submits a passport application on behalf of the child.  Such notice gives you a chance to object to the passport application before anyone is able to take your child out of the country.  The CPIAP will also put all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad on notice, in case someone tries to apply for a U.S. passport for the child while outside the country.

If your child is a dual citizen, keep in mind that these safeguards only apply to the issuance of U.S. passports.  The other parent may be able to get a child with dual citizenship a passport from a foreign embassy or consulate within the U.S. without your permission or knowledge.  In such cases, your attorney may be able to help you work with a foreign embassy.  If your child already has a passport and you’re concerned that the other parent may abduct him or her, you can request the court hold your child’s passport.  Talk to an attorney about any concerns you may have with your child traveling abroad.

This information is general in nature and should not be construed as tax or legal advice.