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U.S. Passports

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Legal Matters

Fact Sheet on Passports for Judges and Lawyers

General Information

Revised: February 2008

 (8 U.S.C. § 1401, et seq., 22 U.S.C. § 211a, et seq., 22 C.F.R., Parts 5051)

  • By federal statute, the Secretary of State may issue a U.S. passport only to United States citizens and nationals.
  • Every United States citizen is entitled to a U.S. passport provided that they, or an adult acting on a child’s behalf, comply with all applicable requirements, and that there is no statutory or regulatory reason to deny the passport.
  • A U.S. passport is issued to each eligible applicant.
  • Children may acquire the citizenship of a non-U.S. citizen parent and potentially have a passport from both the U.S. and the country of the non-U.S. citizen parent’s citizenship at the same time.
  • U.S. passport books and U.S. passport cards for adults are valid for 10 years.
  • U.S. passport books or U.S. passport cards for minors under age 16 are valid for 5 years.
  • You may apply for a U.S. passport within the United States and at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. Within the United States passport applications may be submitted at passport agencies or at more than 9,400 designated local applications acceptance facilities nationwide.
  • All minors and most passport applicants (when submitting Form DS-11) must appear in person.
  • A U.S. passport book or U.S. passport card is now required to return to the United States from Western Hemisphere countries. Learn more about on WHTI Travel requirements.

Minors

(8 U.S.C. § 1401, et seq., 22 U.S.C. § 211a, et seq., 22 C.F.R., Parts 505151.1

  • A minor is defined for passport purposes as an unmarried, unemancipated person under the age of 18.
  • Passport applications for minors under age 16 must be filed in person by a parent, or by an individual specifically authorized as a person in loco parentis,with the minor present.
  • Applications for minors under age 16 must be accompanied by documentation of the minor’s U.S. citizenship, identity and compliance with the Two-Parent Consent Law.
  • Grandparents may not apply for the passport of a grandchild unless they have a document of guardianship or written authority that complies with the Two-Parent Consent Law.
  • Minors who are 16 years and older may sign their own passport application if they and one parent appear with proper identification.

Passport Restrictions for Minors

(22 C.F.R., Parts 51.1

  • A state court has the authority to order a parent, possessing a child’s passport, to surrender the passport to the court or the court’s designee.
  • Such an order is enforceable by the court’s authorities under its state’s law.
  • The court may hold the passport as long as it deems necessary to reduce the likelihood of the removal of a minor child from the United States.
  • In such cases, the action to withhold the passport should be reported to the Office of Children’s Issues to prevent unauthorized attempts to replace it.
  • Questions about the possible value of passport revocation should be sent to the Office of Legal Affairs.
  • At the request of either parent or his/her attorney, the Department of State will give effect to the intent of state civil court orders regarding a child’s custody and/or travel by denying a minor child’s passport when appropriate. A request for passport denial should be sent to the Office of Children’s Issues.
  • A parent or attorney may request to place the child’s name in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) lookout system. Under this system, the Department of State will notify the requesting parent or attorney that a passport application is being filed for the child. In these cases, if the Department has a court order granting sole custody to one parent or restricting the child’s travel on file, the passport would be denied.
  • Unless parental rights have been removed, either parent, with or without custody, can obtain information about his/her minor child’s passport status as part of a passport restriction request. Certified copies of a child’s passport application can be obtained from:

U.S. Department of State
Office of Legal Affairs
CA/PPT/S/L/LA
44132 Mercure Circle
PO Box 1227
Sterling, VA 20166-1227

Phone: (202) 485-6400
Fax: (202) 485-6496

Assistance to Law Enforcement Agencies in Abduction Cases

(22 C.F.R. Parts 51.70 and 51.72)

  • Appropriate law enforcement agencies may place the name of an adult, subject to a Federal Warrant for Parental Child Abduction or Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution, into the Department’s passport name check system.
  • This action can assist in locating the fugitive, prevent future passport issuance to them or force their return to the United States from a foreign country.
  • A passport may be revoked where the person obtained their passport fraudulently, the passport was issued in error, the person’s certificate of naturalization was cancelled by a federal court, or the person would not be entitled to a new passport under 22 C.F.R. 51.70 (a) or (b). Please note that the physical revocation of a passport is often difficult.
  • Often, when foreign law enforcement agencies are informed by the Department that the passport of a U.S. citizen in foreign custody has been revoked, they will deport the person under escort because of that person’s status as an undocumented alien.
  • Thus, passport revocation (or the threat of passport revocation) is especially valuable when attempting to convince a parental kidnapper to return, with the child, to the United States.
  • To begin the revocation process, law enforcement officers should make a request, in writing, to the Office of Legal Affairs.

Civil Law Enforcement Requests Relating to an Adult

  • Upon written request from the presiding judge in a domestic civil suit, passport information may be released to the court relating to a party who has been ordered to surrender their U.S. passport.
  • The Department of State will release information about the person’s current passport status to a requesting judge and will inform the judge if that person applies for a new passport.
  • Passport issuance will not be denied based on the request, but the judge can invoke state civil contempt sanctions based on the information.
  • If requested to do so by the court, issuance of the passport may be delayed for a minimal period of time – generally 10 days. This can be helpful to prevent a parent’s use of a passport in international child abduction when the judge has placed a passport restriction as a condition of visitation or other parental privilege.
  • Judges may request information about a party whom they have ordered to turn in their current passport by writing to the Office of Legal Affairs. See the sample letter below as guidance for drafting a passport information request, and provide all information requested:

Case No: ______________________

Dear Director of the Office of Legal Affairs:

I am writing to request that _______________________, a party to the above captioned suit, be placed into the passport lookout database, and that you inform me if he /she applies for a new passport within the next year.

Mr./Ms. ___________________________________ has surrendered his/her

United States passport, number __________________, per order of this court.

Mr./Ms. __________________’s identifying information is as follows:

Date of Birth: _______________, Place of Birth: _________________________,

Social Security Number: ________________.

Should Mr./Ms. ___________________ apply for a new passport, please notify me or my clerk at the following telephone number and address:

(Address Line)
(Address Line)
(Address Line)
(Telephone No.)
(Fax No.)

Sincerely,

_____________________, Judge

______________________Court