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A birth certificate is an essential document for many legal and official purposes, including travel. It can be used to obtain a passport, as proof of age for babies who are flying, and, in some cases, as a way to confirm your identity if your ID was lost or stolen.
However, it is important to know the appropriate situations when you can and cannot use your birth certificate to travel.
One of the most common questions new parents ask before a trip is, “Do children need their birth certificate to fly?”. The answer depends on where you plan to fly: domestic (inside the United States) or internationally.
If your child is under the age of 2, then they are allowed to travel for free on your lap. However, to prove their age, you’ll usually be required to provide some identification that shows their date of birth. This is especially necessary if your child looks like they might be over the age of 2, as it’s more likely that security personnel asks you to show proof.
Airlines will ask for your child’s identification to ensure that they are under 2 years of age and can take advantage of the lap infant program. In this case, the easiest way to prove your child’s age is to present a birth certificate, since their full name and date of birth are clearly shown.
Once your infant turns 2 years old, they are considered a child. The law states that minors under the age of 18 do not need to provide identification if they are accompanied by an adult and flying domestically. All they need is a valid boarding pass to be able to fly.
However, it is always a good idea to keep some form of identification on yourself, just in case. For peace of mind, parents or guardians should have their child’s birth certificate, an ID card, or a copy of their passport on hand.
Finally, there is a special case for minors traveling alone (also referred to as unaccompanied minors). Although specific requirements vary between companies, most airlines require the parent or guardian to provide the following items:
U.S. Infants and children will need to have a passport to leave the United States, even if they are only a few weeks old. This is because every US citizen, regardless of age, is required to have a valid passport when traveling outside the United States.
Children who do not have a passport will be asked to obtain one before traveling out of the country. The process is straightforward because there are only a few birth certificate requirements to apply for a US passport.
Just like adults, babies and children will also need to apply for a visa or travel authorization if the destination requires it (such as the eTA for New Zealand or the ETIAS for the EU).
While the rules for infant and child travelers differ based on their age and accompanying status, the good news is that the requirements for adults are relatively simple.
Anyone who is of age 18 or over is legally considered an adult. If you are traveling domestically, you may use many different forms of ID to prove your identity, including a US passport, passport card, trusted traveler card (i.e. Global Entry or NEXUS), and driver’s license, among others.
Non-US residents can also use their foreign passport, state photo ID card, or state driver’s license as a form of identification. Beginning on May 3rd, 2023, anyone who wishes to use their state-issued identification card or driver’s license will need to make sure that it is REAL ID compliant.
You can do this by going to the local DMV and providing the following requirements needed for a REAL ID: proof of identity (such as an original or a certified copy of a US birth certificate), social security number, and proof of residency. Those who have changed their name (i.e. due to marriage), may also need to provide an original or certified copy of a name change document.
As mentioned above, all adults who are 18 and over are required to have a valid passport if they wish to travel internationally. Birth certificates are not a valid form of identification for international travel. If you do not have a passport, you may use your birth certificate to obtain one at a passport acceptance facility (such as a post office).
You cannot use your birth certificate as a primary document when flying domestically.
However, there is one situation when it may be used as supporting evidence, and that is if your original identification was lost or stolen. In this case, a birth certificate may be used in conjunction with other documents to confirm your identity.
While you cannot show a birth certificate to prove your identity when flying domestically, as mentioned, a number of other documents can be shown.
Below is a comprehensive list of the ID’s currently accepted by the TSA for domestic flights: