Travel.State.Gov > International Parental Child Abduction > Prevention > Child Abduction Frequently Asked Questions
We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding what actions are appropriate for their particular circumstances, which may include, among other things, obtaining a court order that prohibits a child from traveling outside of the United States.
Prevention measures can be very effective if appropriate steps are taken in a timely manner. These steps include engaging law enforcement and legal representation to advocate on your behalf and securing court documents that protect you and your child. The Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) can also help to prevent a possible abduction by alerting a parent to a U.S. passport application for their child.
A clear court order may be the most important preventative measure. Court orders may include provisions such as:
Without a specifically worded order with travel restrictions for your child, law enforcement and airline personnel may not be able to prevent your child from leaving the United States.
Local law enforcement can work with you to have your child’s name entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, to assist in searching for your child. If you believe your child has already been taken out of state, you can also notify the nearest FBI field office, located by state. Some law enforcement agencies may be less responsive if there is no court order for your child. If you have difficulty getting local law enforcement to focus on the search for your child, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s(NCMEC) 24-hour hotline at 800-843-5678. NCMEC is a non-profit organization that provides support to parents whose children are missing, including domestic and international family abductions
Gathering pertinent information regarding your child and the person you think has taken the child may help officials involved in the search, such as:
Some law enforcement agencies may be less responsive if there is no court order for your child. Your attorney may also be able to assist in working with local law enforcement or the courts. If you have a court order that prohibits removing the child from the U.S. and a law enforcement contact, call 888-407-4747, or email PreventAbduction1@state.gov.
The United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to leave the country. If traveling from the United States to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, travelers are also subject to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Under WHTI, countries have different entry and exit requirements for travelers and in some cases minors may exit the U.S. without a passport. To learn more about these requirements, including land and sea entry and exit laws for all travelers, review Customs and Border Protection’s information about WHTI.
International parental child abduction is a crime in every state and the District of Columbia under specified circumstances, and is also a federal crime under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act. Read more about laws and regulations.
We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding their particular circumstances, and you can contact the Department of Defense.
Contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues at 888-407-4747 or PreventAbduction1@state.gov.
Start working with law enforcement as soon as possible. Keep a written record of the people and agencies you have contacted, as well as their telephone numbers and relevant contact information.
You can call the police. If you think your child has already been taken out of state, you can notify the nearest FBI field office, located by state. Some law enforcement agencies may be less responsive if there is no court order for your child. If you have difficulty getting local law enforcement to focus on the search for your child, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) 24-hour hotline at 800-843-5678. NCMEC is a non-profit organization that provides support to parents whose children are missing, including domestic and international family abductions.
Passport information is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974. However, information regarding the application for and issuance of a passport to a minor is generally available to either parent, regardless of custody rights, as long as the requesting parent’s rights have not been terminated. Regarding the issuance or denial of United States passports to minors involved in custody disputes, please contact Passport Services.
All U.S. Passport applications for minor children under age 16 require that both parents/legal guardians consent or documentation showing that the other parent’s consent is not required (22 U.S.C. 213n and 22 C.F.R. 51.28). Passport applications for children under age 16 must be submitted in person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility. For more information, review passport requirements for minors under age 16.
Although the two-parent consent requirement does not apply to children who are 16 or 17 years old, according to Department regulations, a passport may not be issued to a child if a parent or legal guardian who has custodial rights over a child has notified the Department in writing that he or she objects to issuance of the passport. For more information, review passport requirements for minors age 16 and 17.
Please follow the instructions listed on the Department’s website to order copies of a passport record.
The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) allows the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues to contact the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to verify whether the parental consent requirement for minor passport issuance has been met when a passport application has been submitted for an enrolled child. In addition, upon a child’s enrollment in the CPIAP, we may alert the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a pending passport application and past passport issuances for the child.
Please note that privacy laws and regulations may limit who we can notify if we receive a child’s passport application.
To enroll a child in the CPIAP, please follow the CPIAP instructions.
To update us with your most recent contact information, email us at PreventAbduction1@state.gov, or call 888-407-4747.
Please immediately inform the Office of Children’s Issues of any changes to your contact information and submit any additional documents relevant to the application or issuance of a passport to your child. Additional documents may include, but are not limited to, divorce decrees, custody orders, protective orders, warrants, and police reports. Failure to do so may result in your child being issued a U.S. passport without notice to you and/or without your consent. It is your responsibility to immediately provide our office with all relevant and up-to-date information.
No. Enrolling a child in the CPIAP does not guarantee that child will not be issued a passport. The parent or legal guardian who requests entry of his/her child into the program may consent to issuance of the passport for a passport to be issued in accordance with established parental consent procedures.
Also, a passport may be issued without consent of both parents or legal guardians if the applicant for the passport can establish that consent of both parents is not required under federal law (22 U.S.C. 213n and 22 C.F.R. 51.28). For example, a court order providing the applying parent or guardian with sole legal custody of the child or a court order specifically authorizing the child to travel internationally with the applying parent or guardian may permit issuance of a passport without the consent of the other parent or guardian. This is true even if the child has been enrolled into the CPIAP.
A child is automatically removed from the CPIAP when he/she reaches the age of 18.
If you enrolled your child in the CPIAP, your child is under 18, and you no longer wish to be notified of passport applications for your child, submit a copy of your photo ID and a notarized written statement (including the child’s name and date of birth) requesting the child’s removal from the program to PreventAbduction1@state.gov.
There are no mechanisms in place to track the use of a U.S. passport. The CPIAP is not a method for tracking the use of a U.S. passport. See Prevention’s Take Action page if you have concerns about your child traveling outside of the United States.
This program does not apply to foreign passports. The CPIAP does not prevent a dual national from obtaining and traveling on a foreign passport.
Foreign countries have their own regulations regarding issuance and denial of their passports to U.S. citizen minors who have dual nationality. If there is a possibility that the child has another nationality, you may contact the country’s embassy or consulate directly to inquire about parental consent requirements for passports. See Prevention’s Take Action page if you have concerns about your child traveling outside of the United States.
Be aware that your child may acquire the citizenship or nationality of another country pursuant to that country’s laws, which may include acquisition through:
It’s important to know if your child has acquired or may acquire the citizenship of another country because it could enable your child to
Some countries require children to travel on a parent’s passport and do not issue passports to children.
U.S. citizen children at risk for or involved in international abductions may have more than one nationality. The Department of State cannot prevent another country from issuing passports to children who are also nationals of that country. However, it may be helpful to ask a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States either to not issue a passport to your child, or to notify you of a passport application.
See Prevention’s Take Action page if you have concerns about your child traveling outside of the United States.