International travel provides an opportunity for intellectual and psychological growth, but many have questions about obtaining passports for children. For U.S. citizens, passports are required, irrespective of age, but there are special requirements for those issued to minors. In the article below, we’ve listed five considerations that will help you to be prepared when you visit the passport office.

1. The Real Deal

It’s often acceptable to use a notarized copy of a birth certificate in lieu of other identification. For example, individuals may present such documents rather than a copy of their social security card when seeking employment. However, when you take your child to apply for a passport, only the genuine article is acceptable. Other documents that may be used in place of a birth certificate are an undamaged and expired U.S. passport, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, and a Certificate of Citizenship.

2. Parental Present ID

For minors of 16 years or younger, parents or guardians must also submit evidence of their nationality or legal resident status. This can be accomplished by presenting one of the several documents. An undamaged and expired U.S. passport, an entirely valid and unexpired state-issued driver’s license or a military ID are usually deemed the most convenient forms to use. However, certificates of naturalization or citizenship, a Matricula Consular issued by the Mexican government, a valid foreign passport or a government employee ID is also acceptable evidence of these statuses.

3. Establishing Parental Relationship

As a safeguard against human trafficking of a minor across an international border, the United States requires that the parent or guardian of a child establish their custodial rights and relationship before granting that minor a passport. In this country, the certificate of live birth registered with the state for purposes of issuing a Social Security number accomplishes this. The names of both birth parents are usually listed on the document, which is then notarized and entered into public record. Other formal documentation that you may present includes a divorce and decree of custody, a foreign birth certificate or Report of Birth Abroad from a U.S. Consulate, or an order of adoption.

4. Both Parents or Guardians Required

Except in cases in which there are not two living or acknowledged parents or guardians, both individuals must be present when applying for passports for children. Since extenuating circumstances exist, the U.S. State Department outlines alternative criteria. If you have sole custody, you must submit the decree of adoption or custody agreement, certificate of death of absent parent or a court decree declaring incompetence of one parent, or a court order that specifically permits you to apply for your child’s passport.

If one parent cannot be present to apply for a passport, they can signal their full consent and knowledge by filling out the form DS-3053. This should be completed and signed and submitted along with other required documents.

5. In Absentia

This contingency seems like a relic from another age redolent of boarding schools and foreign offices. It is apt for today’s international community of diplomats, business professionals, and scholars. The U.S. State Department does allow for situations in which neither legal parent is capable of being bodily present during the application process. In this case, a third party is empowered to stand as the child’s representative. Both parents must indicate in writing their consent, which must be dated no later than three months before the application process. It must also include a photocopy of the photo ID of both parents. In the case in which only one parent has custody, the guardian must also provide acceptable documentation of sole custody for the single parent.

While the passport application process is accompanied by sometimes-labyrinthine requirements, there are good reasons for them. It is vital that a juvenile passport not be issued if requested by an improper person who either does not have legal custody or the best interests of the child in mind. Passports for children enable them to cross international borders, which can lead to joyous experiences but can also permit non-sanctioned individuals to take them out of the country, which would jeopardize some of the most vulnerable U.S. citizens.