When I first lost my late husband and went to get my children a passport as a solo mother, I felt daunted by the paperwork and how to navigate getting it all done correctly.

The hardest part for me, without question, was pulling out that death certificate; talk about a gut-wrenching experience, but sadly, it’s a necessary step in this process. You need to know that even for passport renewals, up till your children hit 18, you must send in an original death certificate, even when one was provided for the initial passport approval. I remember being particularly annoyed I had to produce another original copy for renewal, like, did he die twice, but sadly that’s how bureaucracy works sometimes.

So we’ve compiled some simple steps to help you navigate this process, and I am sending a big hug.

I know firsthand that living after a loss requires complicated moves behind the scenes that can be emotionally draining. Just remember why you are doing it and why it matters.

Travel will give them an education and an unmatched view of the world. It will even help them grow as humans and understand our great big world. Bonus, kids of loss have a lot of empathy to share and tend to lean into life lessons very readily.

Here are some steps to passport approval after the loss of a parent:

If one parent has passed away and the surviving parent wants to obtain a passport for their child, they will need to provide certain documents and information to prove their relationship to the child and to comply with the passport application requirements.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Obtain the required documents: You can gather the needed documents at your local post office or by going to: Travel.State.gov The surviving parent will need to provide the child’s birth certificate, a death certificate of the deceased parent, and any other relevant documents, such as custody or guardianship papers. *You will need an original death certificate for each child who is applying (yes, this sucks but it’s the requirement).
  2. Fill out the passport application: The surviving parent will need to fill out Form DS-11, which is the application for a U.S. passport. The form can be obtained online or in-person at a U.S. Passport Agency or Acceptance Facility. *Please note that a minor must appear in person to be approved. Start with your local post-office. 
  3. Provide identification: The surviving parent will need to present their own identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, along with the child’s birth certificate and any other necessary documents.
  4. Pay the fees: There is a fee for obtaining a passport, and the amount will depend on the type of passport and how quickly it is needed. The fee can be paid by check, money order, or credit card.
  5. Submit the application: Once the application is complete, the surviving parent will need to submit it in-person at a U.S. Passport Agency or Acceptance Facility.
  6. Track Your Application: You can track the status of your application online or by calling the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

**Note that the process of obtaining a US passport can take several weeks, so it’s important to apply well in advance of any travel plans. I’d suggest applying several months in advance to eliminate added stress.

It’s important to note that the requirements for obtaining a passport may vary depending on the specific circumstances, such as the child’s age and whether the surviving parent has legal custody or guardianship. It may be helpful to consult with a passport agent or attorney for guidance in these situations.

Take a few deep breaths, remember the reason you want to go on your adventure and don’t let the scary things stop you from living. Remember, we are all still here for a reason.

You’ve got this.

Go see the world.


PS…It is never a bad idea to keep a copy of the deceased parent’s death certificate with you when you travel domestically or especially abroad. It may help stop any potential issues even before they start.