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International Parental Child Abduction

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Prevention

Child Abduction Frequently Asked Questions

Preventing a Possible Abduction

For frequently asked questions on how to prevent a possible abduction, please see the information below.

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What can I do if I think that my child’s other parent or relatives may take my child outside the United States?/she is?

Consider how you can take action and review our Prevention Tips.

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.

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How effective are abduction prevention measures?

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: 

  • prohibiting international travel of the child,
  • specifying the beginning and end dates of visits,
  • requiring supervised visitation,
  • requiring the court’s approval to take the child out of the state or country, and/or,
  • requiring a court or a neutral third party to hold a child’s U.S. and/or foreign passport(s).

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.

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Where can I go for legal advice?

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, an attorney in the United States may help you navigate the legal system. We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding their particular circumstances.

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What can law enforcement do if my child has been or may have been taken outside 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

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What information should I provide to law enforcement?

Gathering pertinent information regarding your child and the person you think has taken the child may help officials involved in the search, such as:

  • Photographs of the child and biographic information,
  • Details about the person you think has taken the child and associates,
  • Court orders regarding your child,
  • Circumstances about when you last saw the child,
  • Where you think they may travel,
  • Travel itineraries, departure routes, or airlines/border crossings

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.

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What is required for my child to travel outside of the United States?

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.

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What laws exist to help prevent child abduction?

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

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My spouse is in the military, and I don’t want my child go overseas. Can you help?

We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding their particular circumstances, and you can contact the Department of Defense.

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What can I do if my child has been or may have been taken outside the United States?

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.

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My child has been abducted, but is not going internationally. What can I do?

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.

Children's Passport Information

For frequently asked questions on Children's passport information, please see the information below.

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Who Needs to Sign for My Child’s Passport?

Generally, both parents or legal guardians are required to sign a passport application for a minor child under age 16. Please refer to our Passports for Minors Under Age 16 page for further information.

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What Information about Your Child’s Passport is Available to You?

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.

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What is required to apply for a passport for a minor under age 16?

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.

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What is required to apply for a passport for children who are 16 or 17 years old?

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.

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How can I order copies of my child’s passport record?

Please follow the instructions listed on the Department’s website to order copies of a passport record. 

Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

For frequently asked quesitons on the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP), please see information below.

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What is the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program?

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.

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Who can be enrolled in CPIAP?

Only U.S. citizens or children who qualify for U.S. citizenship under the age of 18 can be enrolled in the CPIAP.  

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Who can request that a child be enrolled in the CPIAP?
  • A parent or legal guardian,
  • Law enforcement,
  • A court,
  • Child Protective Services, or
  • Someone acting legally on behalf of a parent, such as an attorney or family member

Please note that privacy laws and regulations may limit who we can notify if we receive a child’s passport application.  

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How do I enroll my child in the Children’s Passport Alert Program (CPIAP)?

To enroll a child in the CPIAP, please follow the CPIAP instructions.

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How can I update my contact information?

To update us with your most recent contact information, email us at PreventAbduction1@state.gov, fax to 202-485-6222, 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. 

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Does entering a child's name into CPIAP always prevent a passport from being issued?

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.

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How do I Remove a Child from 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.  

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What if my child already has a U.S. passport?

You may enroll your child into the CPIAP even if he/she already has a passport. Enrolling your child will allow us to attempt to notify you if an application for renewal of the passport is received.

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Can an issued U.S. passport be tracked or flagged?

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. 

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Does the CPIAP apply to passports of another country?

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. 

Dual Nationality: Learn more about the impact of dual nationality

For frequently asked questions on the impact of dual nationality, please see information below.

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What is the impact that dual nationality may have on my child’s travel outside of the U.S.?

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:

  • Birth outside of the U.S.,
  • Mother’s citizenship,
  • Father’s citizenship, or
  • Naturalization

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

  • Obtain a foreign passport,
  • Travel on a foreign passport, and/or,
  • Travel on a parent’s foreign passport

Some countries require children to travel on a parent’s passport and do not issue passports to children.

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What steps can I take to prevent my child from being issued a passport from another country?
  • Consider contacting the foreign embassy or consulate to confirm if your child may be documented as a citizen of that country. A child may acquire citizenship documentation of some foreign countries without consent of both parents. You should confirm the foreign country’s requirements with the foreign embassy or consulate directly.

  • Please note that not all countries have two-parent consent requirements for passport issuance. Consider contacting the foreign embassy or consulate to obtain information on that country’s rules on passport issuance for minors and to learn if they have a passport notification program.

  • Be aware that foreign governments may not recognize U.S. court orders. Foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. may issue passports to children who are their nationals regardless of a U.S. court order. 
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What if my child has a passport of another country?

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.

Disclaimer
Disclaimer

The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 


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