Parents traveling with their little ones for the first time, whether a baby, infant, lap-child, or toddler, often wonder: “Does my child need an ID to fly?” the simple answer is, it depends.
What ID and Documents Does My Child Need to Fly?
Whether kids need ID to fly depends on:
- The child’s age
- Whether they are flying domestically within the US or internationally
- As well as who is accompanying the minor on their trip
Additionally, some airlines have different policies than others, and some documents required for minors to fly take weeks to be issued, so it’s best to be prepared ahead of time.
What Documents Does a Child Need to Fly Within the US?
In general, children between the ages of 2 and 18 traveling domestically are _not _required by TSA to carry identification documents when flying with an adult companion. The accompanying parent, however, _does _need to provide acceptable identification documents.
Adults flying with minors need to travel with a government-issued identification document such as:
- A driver’s license
- A passport card
- A passport book
- A Social Security card
What documents does a baby need to fly inside the US?
Many parents then find themselves wondering “Do I need to bring my baby's birth certificate when flying?”
Airlines allow infants under the age of 2 to travel without their own ticket as long as they are flying on their parent’s lap, _not _in their own seat. Once a child turns 2, though, they will no longer be allowed to travel as a lap child and be required to purchase their own full-fare ticket.
Although TSA does _not _require a baby to have identification documents when traveling with their parents, they may be asked by the airline at check-in to prove their child is, in fact, under 2. The easiest way to prove a child’s age is by presenting their US birth certificate.
Parents who don’t have their child’s birth certificate at hand may order a certified copy of the birth certificate online by filling out a simple web form ahead of their trip. It is advisable to have a copy easily reachable while carrying your child —for instance in the front pocket of your luggage or diaper bag.
A parent unable to prove their infant is under 2 can be asked to purchase a last minute ticket for their baby —often at premium pricing— if there are still seats available on their flight.
Other acceptable forms of ID when flying with baby —aside from their birth certificate— include:
- A passport
- Immunization records
When flying with a newborn under 14 days old, it is important to check with the airline if additional documents are needed —many require a formal doctor’s note stating they consider it safe for the infant to fly.
What Documents Does a Child Need to Fly Internationally?
Infants traveling abroad —outside the US territory and its dependencies— will need a passport.
Applying for a passport requires a certified copy of a birth certificate, passport photos, and proof of the relationship between you and the child. Both parents need to be present when applying for a minor’s passport. When only one parent is present, a notarized Statement of Consent or proof of sole custody will also be accepted
Additionally, if the child is flying to a destination that requires a visa or one that requires a travel authorization, the minor will have to have their own permit issued as well.
Please note the age of adulthood may differ from one country to the next. Certain parts of Canada, for instance, consider that a citizen is an adult once they reach 19, whilst others consider 18-year-olds adults.
What Documents Does a Child Need to Fly Unaccompanied?
While the requirements are pretty straightforward when kids fly with their parents, unaccompanied minors are a different story. The documents needed for a child to fly alone may vary by airline carrier, however, some basic standards can be found across the industry.
Children fly alone need the following documents —check with the airline whether any more documents are needed:
- Child travel consent form —this document is often provided by the airline and can be often called an unaccompanied minor form or authorization. It needs to be completed by the parent and should contain information about the adult dropping off the child at the airport as well as the adult in charge of picking the child up at arrival.
- Consent letter signed by both parents —children with one deceased parent may be required to have a copy of the late parent’s death certificate attached to the later signed by their living parent or guardian
Older teens can have one of the following documents on them while traveling:
- Driver’s license
- Learners permit
- Passport card
- Credit card
- School ID
- Company ID
- Library card
- Birth certificate
- Social security card
- Organization ID (athletics club, theater group, etc.)
- Proof of auto insurance in the passenger’s name
Although the airline does not require identification documents, it is still advisable that the child carry some form of identification just in case.