When it comes to air travel, ID requirements for children can be a bit confusing. Do children need ID to fly? How old should they be to get an ID? Do minors need it, too? What about older minors?
If you’re asking yourself (and Google) what identification is needed for a child to fly, don’t worry. You’re not the only one.
And since we’ve wondered the same, we’ve decided to dig into the official policies on child ID requirements. Let’s see what you’ll need before the next family holiday!
What does the TSA say?
Our first resource for most air travel-related things are the official TSA pages. It helps that they have an FAQ section for double-checking.
According to the TSA, only people older than 18 have to show valid identification.
If they’re traveling on domestic flights with a companion within the United States, kids under 18 don’t have to provide ID to pass the security.
However, the TSA doesn’t say anything on airline’s policies and instead advises to consult each airline on their child ID requirements for air travel.
So while TSA ID requirements for minors stipulate that they don't have to bring ID if they're traveling with an adult, it's good to check your airline's requirements, and have it confirmed in writing to ensure optimal processing times.
What do the airlines say?
While it’s best to contact airlines to ask them if kids need ID to fly, most of them allow kids with adults to board the plane. However, if the children are getting a discounted rate, they may be asked to show identification to prove their actual age. This is obviously not the case with smaller kids, but if your child is closer to 18 than 10, you may want to get them a passport or at least a birth certificate.
What identification is needed for a child to fly alone?
If your child is traveling alone, they may be required to bring a photo ID, depending on the airline. For example, United states that children aged 5-14 don’t have to show ID, but that’s not the case with older minors.
If your child is between 15 and 17 years old, they need ID to fly with United. They can choose from an extensive list of documents such as driver’s license, passport, credit card, school ID, social security card, etc.
Southwest Airlines requires children between the ages of 5 and 11 who are traveling unaccompanied to present a form of identification listing age. You can use a birth certificate here, and you should expect to be asked to show your own photo ID at the gate.
Again, this varies from airline to airline, so verify if minors need ID to fly with the airline of your choosing.
What about international child ID requirements?
So far, we’ve covered the ID rules within the US. However, if you’re going on an international flight with your child (or if they’re traveling alone), the ID requirements are different.
The TSA says that all passengers need a valid government issued passport when traveling on international flights, so make sure your child has applied for a passport early enough to travel.
This isn’t just important for identity-verification purposes, but it’s also a proof that they’re a citizen of the US. You can fill out the passport application form DS-11 to get your child’s passport. If you’re applying for it from Canada, you can use the form DS-82.
If your children will only be traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda (through any ports of entry), you can also get them a passport card instead of an actual passport. It’s less expensive, and a good option if you’re not planning to have them fly to more remote destinations.
In case of a child traveling alone internationally, they will need a passport, and a Child Travel Consent form. This form ensures that the minor is allowed to travel without their parents.
You should include the following documents in a Child Travel Consent form:
- Your child's name, birthplace, and passport information (if applicable)
- Medical information (allergies, special needs)
- Information about their parents or guardians
- Travel information
You can also get this form for domestic flights, but they’re an absolute requirement with international flights.
What if a child is traveling internationally with only one parent?
Be careful if your child is traveling with you without the other parent present, especially if you’re visiting Europe.
Research the country you’re visiting and get in touch with the embassy for more information, as you may be required to bring a notarized Letter of Consent.
This is similar to the Child Travel Consent Form, but its purpose is to obtain permission and consent to travel alone with your child.Letter of Consent typically includes the parents’ names, flight information and trip dates, the name of the parent (or adult) accompanying the child, and contact information. Both parents have to sign it and if you’re divorced, you’ll also need a copy of your custody agreement.
Does my child need ID to travel with school/teachers/grandparents?
If children are traveling with people who are not their parents, they have to have ID and, in some cases, a consent letter signed by their parents.
So if your child is traveling with school and teachers, you’ll have to sign a Child Travel Consent form and make sure they have a valid ID (a birth certificate is okay).
You can use the same form if your child is traveling with their grandparents.
Same rules about Child Travel Consent apply if you’re traveling with someone else’s child (such as going on a holiday with your child and their best friend).
Follow ID requirements and stay safe
While airport and security officials have a lot of understanding, you don’t want to risk having to go back home to look for your kid’s ID – especially if you’re going on a holiday.
So before you get to the airport, check the TSA and the airline’s child ID requirements for air travel. And if you’re traveling internationally, make sure you contact the embassy for any additional requirements.
Traveling should be fun, so make sure you follow the rules to have an amazing, stress-free experience with your children.