Passports - advice

This advice provides information regarding applying for a passport for a child subject to a protection order.

See procedure Passports for actions that must be undertaken.

Document ID number 2134, version 3, 6 June 2017


Under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (APA), the written consent of all people with parental responsibility for a child (anyone under 18 years who has never married) is needed before a passport will be issued, unless ‘special circumstances’ exist or a court order made under the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA) states otherwise.

This means, despite a Children’s Court order granting exclusive responsibility to the Secretary or permanent care parents, under the APA the parents of a child retain residual ‘parental responsibilities' unless the protection order is registered in the Family Court of Australia. However, under the ‘special circumstances’ provision of the APA, a person with exclusive parental responsibility for the child (the Secretary or the permanent care parent) is able to apply for a passport for the child and for it to be issued even if a parent does not consent.

The Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 orders that affect parental responsibility include:

  • family reunification order
  • care by Secretary order
  • long-term care order
  • permanent care order

Applying for a passport where parental consent cannot be obtained

In many instances it is not possible to obtain parental consent in respect of a child on one of the orders named above. However, Part 2, Division 2, of the Australian Passport Determination 2015 provides that in specified special circumstances a passport may be issued to a child even though a person who has parental responsibility for the child has not provided consent to the child travelling internationally. Special circumstances include where:

(j) an order of a State or Territory court, made under a child welfare law, grants parental responsibility or guardianship of the child to:

(i) a parent of the child other than the non-consenting parent; or

(ii) a person other than the parent of the child

Care by Secretary, long-term care and permanent care orders

For a child subject to a care by Secretary order, long-term care order, or permanent care order, this determination allows the child's legal guardian, the Secretary or the permanent care parent, to apply for a passport for the child and for it to be issued even if a parent does not consent. It must be the Secretary, or a delegate of the Secretary, who makes this application. Contracted case managers must work with the allocated child protection practitioner to complete the application and obtain the necessary approvals. A passport application for a child signed by a contracted case manager or out-of-home care provider will not be processed. The approval process is described in Passports.

Applications will be subject to consideration and approval by an Approved Senior Officer (ASO) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) located in the Australian Passport Office.

Family reunification orders

Family reunification orders may fall within the scope of the special circumstances provisions of the APA. However child protection practitioners must seek parental consent for an application to be made.  

When making a determination about whether to apply for a passport for a child on a family reunification order, the circumstances of the travel and any potential impacts of this on the child’s case plan and family reunification permanency objective must be considered.

All other protection orders

Whilst some applications regarding all other protection orders may fall within the scope of the special circumstances provisions of the APA, most will not and therefore parental consent will be required.

When should an application be made?

The Australian Passport Office advises that while it endeavours to process applications as quickly as possible, generally an additional three to four weeks on top of normal processing times is required. As processing times can vary, and some applications may not be straightforward, child protection practitioners and permanent care parents should plan for the process to take several months. It is strongly advised that, wherever possible, tickets to travel overseas are not booked until the child’s passport is received.