Updated: Jan 11, 2020
Does my child need id to fly? Does my child need other documentation to fly? These are the questions I see or hear on a weekly basis. The answer- it all depends.
Below is a general overview of what documents your child may need when flying domestic, internationally and a special section on additional documentation needed if the child is only flying with one parent or neither parents.
According to TSA, children under the age of 18 are not required to provide identification when traveling in the United States. However, you should always check with your specific airline on their ID requirements.
The majority of airlines do not require ID for children under the age of 18, but this can change at anytime. It truly is up to the security agent allowing you through security on whether they will ask for it. However, if you do need ID for your child a copy of their birth certificate would be sufficient. If you would like to obtain a photo ID for your child I would suggest obtaining a state ID through your state Department of Transportation, a passport card or passport.
I also advise that if the child is traveling with only one parent to have the other parent fill out the Child Consent Form. This form is explained in more detail in a later section. The Child Consent Form is not required at this time but it doesn't hurt to have it.
For most international destinations a child can fly with a certified birth certificate. However, there are some destinations that require a passport card or passport card. It is highly advisable to obtain a passport card or passport for all persons traveling internationally.
Passports for children 15 years of age and younger are valid for 5 years and adult passports (16 and older) are valid for 10 years. Passport processing can take up to 8 weeks or longer. However, it is possible to expedite a passport which can decrease the time to a week or longer.
Please not that some countries also require that your passport has at least six months of validity left when you are traveling. So that means that if you have a passport that is set to expire less than 6 months from your last day of travel, you should renew your passport immediately. To find the countries that require the 6 months validity please refer to the listing at https://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/countries-that-require-six-months-validity-in-a-passport.html.
Child Traveling with One Parent or Neither Parent
When a child is traveling internationally with only one parent or neither parents, besides their passport they will also need their birth certificate and a Child Consent Form. When flying domestically, the child may not need the Child Consent Form but it is highly recommended just in case.
The airline in the United States may allow your child to board the plane without the Child Consent Form but then when you arrive at immigration they may request the form. If your child does not have the form they will be diverted back to the United States on your dollar.
A free Child Consent Form can be created here https://www.lawdepot.com/contracts/child-travel-consent/?loc=US#.Xg5kq0dKjIU . Or you may create your own but be sure to include the following information:
Child's contact information
Both parents contact information
Child's travel arrangement (who the child will be traveling with such as teacher, etc.)
The Child Consent Form should be notarized to decrease any chance of questioning the validity of the form.
Special circumstance such as one parent being deceased is where things can get a little tricky. If this is your situation, you should still have a Child Consent Form, your childs birth certificate, passport and along with that you should have a certified death certificate of the deceased parent.
The greatest piece of advice I can give is, it's better to be safe than sorry. If you are at all questioning the documentation that is needed please advise your travel agent or the The US Department of State site which can be found here https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html.