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How to Obtain a Passport for the Child You are Adoptiong Prior to Finalization and/or Receiving the Amended Birth Certificate

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How to Obtain a Passport for the Child You are Adoptiong Prior to Finalization and/or Receiving the Amended Birth Certificate

I have fielded many questions from adopting parents regarding the procedures to obtain a passport for their adopted child (U.S.-born only) when they are in the process of adopting or shortly after their adoption has been “finalized” but prior to receiving the child’s amended birth certificate. The good news is that prospective adoptive parents can obtain a passport under these circumstances. The guidelines are as follows:

Obtaining A Passport

In order to obtain a passport for a U.S.-born adopted child under age 16, the adopting parent must provide evidence regarding: (1) the minor’s U.S. citizenship; (2) the relationship between the person applying for the minor’s passport and the minor; (3) present identification of the person applying for the minor’s passport, and (4) evidence of parental consent.

A.   Obtaining A Passport Prior To The Finalization Of The Adoption

If you are in the process of adopting and the adoption has not been finalized, you should bring the following documents to the U.S. Passport office:

  1. A certified copy of the child’s original birth certificate;
  2. A certified copy of the Adoption Petition filed with the adoption court proving that there is a pending adoption in a state court;
  3. Documents proving that the baby was placed for adoption. This is the document that legally places the child with you, or if it is an adoption agency case, the relinquishment document which legally places the child with the adoption agency;
  4. Your identification, i.e., driver’s license or passport; and
  5. It is strongly recommended that you present an affidavit authorizing travel outside the United States signed by the birth mother and/or letter authorizing travel outside the United States from the county agency or private adoption agency.

We have found that even though a prospective adoptive parent presents the documents listed above, each State Department employee will make his or her own decision as to whether or not they are sufficient. The best way to ensure success is to present a birth mother or adoption agency authorization. In our practice, we always have the birth mother sign an affidavit authorizing the adopting parents to obtain a passport and travel anywhere in the world prior to finalization of the adoption. This document should be notarized. We have had 100% success obtaining a passport prior to finalization when we have included this document. Indeed, if the baby you are going to adopt has not yet been born, be sure to insist that your adoption attorney obtains this document from the birth mother at the time she signs her adoption consent documents. If it is too late to obtain this affidavit, we suggest that you obtain a letter from the county or private adoption agency handling post-placement supervision informing the passport office that the agency approves of the adopting parents obtaining a passport and traveling with the baby outside the United States prior to finalization of the adoption.

Even though the adoption has not yet been finalized, the State Department will issue the passport in the child’s adoptive name. This is particularly useful when traveling abroad because the child will be able to travel under the adoptive parents’ surname. One important thing to keep in mind is that obtaining a passport from the State Department does not mean that the adoption agency supervising your adoption or the adoption judge presiding over the adoption approves of your travel. Many states require judicial or agency approval before traveling where the adoptee is in your custody and the adoption has yet to finalize. If your adoption has not been finalized, be sure to check with your adoption attorney and/or agency to ensure that you coordinate your travel plans with them and that they obtain the proper clearances.

B. Obtaining A Passport After Adoption Finalization But Prior To Obtaining The Amended Birth Certificate

If your adoption has been finalized and the court has signed and entered a final order of adoption, the adopting parents can bring the following documents to the U.S. Passport office:

  1. A certified copy of the child’s original birth certificate;
  2. A certified copy of the signed Adoption Order/Decree;
  3. A copy of the signed Adoption Agreement (California only). For states other than California, the Adoption Order/Decree will suffice if it lists the name of the minor before and after the adoption. If you are in a state other than California and the final Adoption Order/Decree only lists the name of the child after the adoption, you should submit a court document that identifies the minor’s name before and after the adoption. The State Department wants to be able to link the original name on the birth certificate to the name on the final Adoption Order/Decree; and
  4. Your identification, i.e., driver’s license or passport.

Should anyone have any questions about obtaining a passport under the circumstances set forth above, please feel free to call me at (818) 789-1012 or you can e-mail me at markg@adopthelp.com.

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