Do children need ID to fly? Here’s what you need to know

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When planning out a trip with children, you may wonder if your child needs to present an ID to fly. The tricky part is that the answer here isn’t a definite yes or no; it’s a “sometimes.” So the next question in line, of course, is “when?” That’s what we’ll take a look at in this article so that you can be prepared with the correct information the next time you fly with your children.

When is ID not required?

Flying domestic with an adult

TSA does not require children under 18 to show an ID when they are traveling with an adult. A common scenario here is families traveling together or children traveling with one related adult. The adult companion must still be able to provide valid identification. This is the case for most airlines, but it is always good to double-check the airline policy before you travel. Each airline has individual rules regarding identification requirements, and some might require an ID for children to travel.

Flying Domestic as an unaccompanied minor

While unaccompanied minors usually aren’t required to show proof of identification while moving through the airport and boarding their flight, any adults accompanying them to their flight will. And although it is usually not required, it is still advisable to carry a passport, birth certificate, or some other form of identification just in case.

Additionally, going through TSA, an agent might ask your child what their name is to confirm their identification. It can be helpful to practice this with your children ahead of time to know what to expect and reduce any fears of traveling solo. 

(Photo by FamVeld/Shutterstock)

When is ID required?

Now let’s look at the different scenarios in which an ID is required for a child to travel. When it comes to international travel, you will always be required to show ID for your children. In some cases, you might be required to fill out paperwork at the airport as well. 

International flights (and what ID is required)

When flying internationally, each adult and all children will need to carry passports with them. If your child does not have a passport, a birth certificate may suffice, but it is best to check with the airline before traveling. Keep your child’s passport in a spot that is easy to access because there will be multiple checkpoints throughout the airport where you will need to show this documentation.

Flying International with only one parent or without parents

There is a bit more documentation required when a child is flying alone or with just one parent. Children under the age of 18 should carry with them:

  • Their passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Written consent from the children’s parents or legal guardian

Children who are traveling with an adult who is not their legal guardian (like a teacher, grandparent, or coach) should also provide a Child Travel Consent Form. Although TSA might let your child through security at the airport, immigration at the international destination will typically require this form for entry into the country. 

FAQ

How to get a passport for my child? 

Children who are under the age of 16 will need to apply for a passport in person, accompanied by two parents or legal guardians. These passports are valid for five years (versus ten years for those over the age of 16). You can find the full process for applying for your child’s passport here. Remember that it can take up to 12 weeks to receive a passport, so it’s always a good idea to plan in advance so that your child’s passport arrives in time for your trip. 

What Documents are required? 

In order to apply for a passport for your child who is under the age of 16, the following documents are required. 

  • Fill out a form DS-11
  • Proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or a certificate of citizenship
  • A black and white photocopy of your child’s proof of citizenship
  • Proof of parental relationship (also typically found on the birth certificate or certificate of adoption)
  • One form of parental ID (such as a passport or driver’s license) 
  • Provide passport-sized one photo of the child with their application 

What is a Child Travel Consent Form? 

If your child is flying either with just one parent, without parents at all, or with an adult that is not their parent, they will most likely need to carry a Child Travel Consent Form with them. This form is a legal document used for a child traveling alone, as an unaccompanied minor, or with another adult who isn’t their legal guardian when traveling internationally. The travel consent form should include the following :

  • The name, birthplace, and passport information of the child traveling
  • Written permission and contact information of the child’s parent or guardian. 
  • Information about the traveling adult who is accompanying the child
  • Detailed travel itinerary including the original, destination, start and end dates of travel. 
  • Any special needs, allergies, or medication for the child
  • The signature of the parent who is permitting the child to travel

Do I need any documents for my kid flying as a lap child? 

On most airlines, children under the age of two can sit on a parent’s lap during a flight. While TSA doesn’t require identification for children under two, the airline will most likely ask to see proof of age before you board your flight. For this reason, it’s important to carry identification, like a birth certificate, to show how old your child is. 

Bottom line

Traveling with children can seem overwhelming at times, and being prepared for every scenario can help ensure a more relaxed trip through the airport. Understanding when your children will or won’t need to present identification can greatly reduce travel stress and help you be prepared to move easily to your final destination.

Erin Lizzo is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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