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SEOUL — New passport regulations go into effect early next year, including a rule that increases the age of a child needing consent from both parents in order to travel abroad, according to a U.S. Embassy official.

The rule is meant to hinder child abductions and runaways, said Hale VanKoughnett, chief of American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. To that cause, the State Department will change the age of a “minor” for passport purposes from 13 to 15, he said.

That means that starting Feb. 1, all children 15 and younger must be accompanied by both parents in order to apply for a passport.

“Both parents need to appear with the child,” VanKoughnett said during a telephone interview on Thursday. The parents and child must appear at an overseas consular office or embassy, a military passport agent’s office (such as a base legal office), or a passport agent’s office in the States (such as a post office or courthouse).

The State Department will accept a notarized statement on behalf of a parent who cannot attend, he said. This often happens in military families, where one parent is deployed, and the other is with the child, he said.

Also, in the case of divorce or separation, the State Department will continue to review court documents that spell out custody arrangements in order to determine whether one or both parents should be involved in the passport application process, he said.

Another new policy involves name changes, VanKoughnett said.

Beginning in February, certified copies of marriage, divorce or other court documents will not be required to apply for a name change, he said. However, in some cases, State Department workers may request such certified documentation if necessary, he said.

Other changes that become effective in February include adding active state and local felony arrest warrants as a reason to deny a passport application. Currently, only federal felony arrest warrants serve as a reason for denial, revocation or restriction of passports.

For more information on passports, go to http://travel.state.gov.

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