International Custody Issues

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

The following information is from the website of the U.S. State Department:

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) is a service for the parents and legal guardians of minor children. It enables the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues to notify a parent or court ordered legal guardian, when requested, before issuing a U.S. passport for his or her child. The parent, legal guardian, legal representatives, or the court of competent jurisdiction must submit a written request for entry of a child’s name into the program to the Office of Children’s Issues.

Request Entry of a Child into CPIAP

Passport Issuance to Children

A person applying for a passport for a child under 16 must show that both parents consent to the issuance or that the applying parent has sole authority to obtain the passport. Passport applications made in the U.S. and at consular offices abroad will both be covered by the new law. Exceptions to this requirement may be made in special family circumstances or exigent circumstances necessitating the immediate travel of the child.

Once a passport is issued, its use is not tracked or controlled by the Department of State. There are no exit controls for American citizens leaving the United States. If you believe that your child may be abducted internationally, immediately contact the Office of Children’s Issues and inform appropriate law enforcement officials.

Information regarding the issuance of a passport to a minor is available to either parent, regardless of custody rights, as long as the requesting parents’ rights have not been terminated. The Department of State’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program is a program to alert us when an application for a United States passport is made. This is not a program for tracking the use of a passport. This program can be used to inform a parent or a court when an application for a United States passport is executed on behalf of a child. The alert program generally remains in effect until each child turns 18. It is very important that parents keep us informed in writing of any changes to contact information and legal representation. Failure to notify CA/OCS/CI of a current address may result in a passport issuance for your child without your consent.

Passports – General Information

A passport is a travel document issued by competent authority showing the bearer’s origin, identity, and nationality, which is valid for the entry of the bearer into a foreign country (8 United States C 1101(3)).

Under United States law, U.S. citizens must enter and depart the U.S. with valid U. S. passports (8 United States C 1185(b)). This requirement is waived, however, for travel from countries within the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba (22 CFR 53.2). However, each foreign country has its own entry requirements concerning citizenship, passports and visas.

Information regarding those requirements may be obtained from the appropriate foreign embassy or consulate. The addresses and telephone numbers for the foreign embassy or consulate near you are found in our Foreign Entry Requirements .

The Privacy Act and Passports

Passport information is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act (PL 93-579) passed by Congress in 1974. Information regarding a minor’s passport is available to either parent. Information regarding adults may be available to law enforcement officials or pursuant to a court order issued by the court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with (22 CFR 51.27). If you want us to forward to the Foreign Embassy the information contained in your request to the Office of Children’s Issues, please complete and sign the Foreign Embassy Contact Form. That form contains a waiver of your Privacy Act Rights and the rights of your minor children. For further information regarding the issuance or denial of United States passports to minors involved in custody disputes, or about international child abduction, please contact us at (888)407-4747 (this is a recorded message which provides access to country officers).

General passport information is available on our home page. While we make every effort to be of assistance, the Office of Children’s Issues can assume no legal responsibility for the services provided.

Dual Nationality for Children

Many children, whether born in the United States or born abroad to a United States citizen parent, are citizens of both the United States and another country. This may occur through the child’s birth abroad, through a parent who was born outside the United States, or a parent who has acquired a second nationality through naturalization in another country. There is no requirement that a United States citizen parent consent to the acquisition of another nationality.

The inability to obtain a United States passport through the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program does not automatically prevent a dual national child from obtaining and traveling on a foreign passport. There is no requirement that foreign embassies adhere to United States regulations regarding issuance and denial of their passports to United States citizen minors who have dual nationality. If there is a possibility that the child has another nationality, you may contact the country’s embassy or consulate directly to inquire about denial of that country’s passport. The addresses and telephone numbers for the foreign embassy or consulate near you are found in our Foreign Entry Requirements .

More information about the child-related services available to parents through the Bureau of Consular Affairs is available by calling the Office of Children’s Issues at (888)407-4747 and speaking to an officer who deals with a specific country. There is more information about the prevention of International Parental Child Abduction .

SOURCE: U.S. State Department

Spirited Away: Japan Won’t Let Abducted Kids Go

Dreamstime_414403_2 American Parents Have Little Hope of Being Reunited With Children Kidnapped to Japan

Kaya Wong’s parents never imagined they would be able to have a baby.

Born three years after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Kaya, now 4 years old, was a miracle.

But for Paul Wong, Kaya’s father, the unimaginable soon became the unthinkable. Months after the cancer fatally spread to his wife’s brain in 2005, Kaya, he says, was kidnapped by her maternal Japanese grandparents.

Despite being his daughter’s sole surviving parent, he has few options available to him as an American in Japan – a historically xenophobic country that does not honor international child custody and kidnapping treaties. It’s also a nation that has virtually no established family law and no tradition of dual custody.

He knows where his daughter lives, where she goes to school and how she spends her days, but despite the odd photograph from a family friend, he has not seen his daughter once in the last six months.

Wong is one of hundreds of so-called "left-behind" parents from around the world whose children have been abducted in Japan, the world’s only developed nation that has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

‘Heartbroken’

There are currently 39 open cases involving 47 American children spirited away to Japan, a key American ally and trading partner, but many more go unreported. Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.

"This entire experience has left me heartbroken," Wong told ABCNEWS.com. "We always wanted children. My wife and I talked about starting a family for a long time, but because Akemi was sick we kept having to wait. When Kaya was born, I promised my wife that we would move to Japan so that our daughter would know about her Japanese heritage and Akemi, despite her own illness, could care for her elderly parents."

Wong, a 41-year-old lawyer, says he does not regret keeping his promise to his ailing wife, but his pledge set into motion a series of events that have kept him from seeing his only child.

"She’s very energetic, outgoing, active, inquisitive innocent little girl. She is simply perfect, and sweet as can be. She is not afraid of anything," he said of his daughter during a phone interview from Japan. "I’m breaking up just thinking about her and talking about her. She loves to laugh and has a smile just like her mother’s."

Kaya was born in San Francisco in 2003 and is a dual citizen of the United States and Japan. The young family lived in Hong Kong, with Akemi making occasional trips to California for treatment until she and Kaya moved in with her parents in Kyoto, Japan to rest after a treatment. Shortly thereafter, she passed away.

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International Child Custody and Visitation Concerns

In a global society such as ours, it is no longer unusual to meet couples in which each partner is of a different faith, different political belief, or ethic background. Unfortunately after a divorce or separation, those differences that you once found so charming and unique about your partner, may now, in the instance of international travel, become a source for alarm.

One such concern that arises in the context of family court, is that of the other parent traveling with a child to a foreign country and then failing to return. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that our focus is on preventive acts you can take to avoid problems. As follows are steps you should consider in the context of international travel:

1. Don’t wait. Consult an attorney about your legal rights as soon as you learn that the trip is a possibility.
2. Respect the rights of the other party. The two of you had a child together. Even though you are not together as a couple, your child still has two parents, and the right to know the culture and background of each parent — including traveling to that parent’s country of origin.
3. Find out whether the country to which the child is traveling, is a party to the Hague Convention. The Convention is an international treaty that governs enforcement of custody orders from one county to another. However not every county is a signatory to the treaty, and even among those counties who are parties to the treaty, not all enforce the treaty equally.
4. Ask for reasonable accommodations.  You can require that the other parent post a substantial bond, provide a travel itinerary, allow you to travel with the child, or meet up with the child at a point during the trip.  Additionally, you can require regular communication with the child while away. 

If you still have a genuine fear that the other parent intends to abscond with the child and refuse to return to this county, be prepared to meet the heavy burden of the court. Your fears or suspicions are not enough. You need to gather hard evidence of the following:

  • any steps taken toward living in the other county — has the other parent looked for work or housing in this new location, increased their recent contact with the other country, changed their citizenship or immigration status
  • any changes in the other parent’s ties to their present community, i.e. have they sold their house, moved personal items into storage, quit or lost a job, or any other evidence that the other parent does not intend to return
  • expert testimony about any specific dangers in the proposed country of travel, and/or about that county’s legal system and history of enforcing or ignoring other county’s custody orders.
  • any previous attempts at abduction, or threats made of abduction

SOURCE: Preventive Family Law for Nevada

Fact Sheet on Passports for Family Law Judges and Lawyers

Istock_000002913345small GENERAL PASSPORT FACTS

By federal statute, the Secretary of State of the United States may issue a passport only to a United States citizen or national. Every United States citizen is entitled to a U.S. passport provided that they, or an adult acting on a child’s behalf, comply with all applicable requirements, and that there is no statutory or regulatory reason to deny the passport. The United States issues a passport to each eligible applicant. [Generally see: 8 U.S.C. § 1401, et seq.; 22 U.S.C. § 211a, et seq.; 22 CFR, Parts 50, 51].

Acquisition of one country’s citizenship does not prevent the automatic acquisition of another, concurrent citizenship if the law of the other nation provides for such acquisition. Thus, many children acquire the citizenship of a non-U.S. citizen parent, and could potentially have a passport from both countries at the same time. Some countries, but not the United States, allow the inclusion of dependent children and/or a spouse in the passport of an adult.

A U.S. passport for an adult is valid for no longer than 10 years; a U.S. passport for a child under 16 is valid for no longer than 5 years.

U.S. passports may be applied for within the United States and at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. Most passport applicants, and all children, must appear in person. Within the United States passport applications may be filed at passport agencies or at any of over 5,000 post offices, or clerks of court and other municipal offices designated to accept passport applications (information available at http://iafdb.state.gov). Passport applications for children under 14 must be filed in person by a parent or by an individual specifically authorized as a person in loco parentis . The application must be accompanied by documentation of the child’s U.S. citizenship, identity and compliance with the Two-Parent Consent Law (see below).

Although the U.S. does not require a passport to be used for travel between the United States and Western Hemisphere countries (except Cuba), many Western Hemisphere countries do require U.S. citizens to carry passports. The Department recommends U.S. citizens use their passport for all foreign travel.

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International Child Visitation

Dreamstime_1248468

How can one parent stop the other parent from taking a child to visit a dangerous country?

How can a parent make sure that a child will be returned if the other parent takes the child to visit his or her native country?

Many international parents are justifiably becoming increasingly concerned about the answers to these questions.

New York attorney Jeremy D. Morley, of the International Family Law Blog, has just written an article – published in the July 2007 issue of The Matrimonial Strategist and now also available on his website – describing "Ten Key Tips for Parents" that he has developed as a result of handling these issues for parents around the world.

You can read it here or below.

SOURCE: International Family Law Blog

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