In the U.S., 25 states require child performers to obtain a work permit for paid performances in the entertainment industry, such as film, television and print modeling. Most parents can obtain a permit for their minor child relatively easily, and some states and locations offer faster, same-day service options if you need an immediate permit. Of the 25 states requiring a permit, California and New York have some of the most stringent regulations -- perhaps unsurprisingly, as these are the largest entertainment markets. If your child finds work in either of these states, you will need to provide proof of the permit as a condition of employment.
Review the regulations for child entertainment for your state -- or the state the child will be working in -- and determine if a work permit is necessary. If so, obtain the form from the state department of labor office or website. Many states have the forms available to print online.
Review the requirements for any supporting information necessary for the permit issuance; for example, a certified copy of your child's birth certificate. The state of New York requires documentation -- such as a passbook or account slip -- to demonstrate a trust account established for the performer. While California does not require trust details for issuance of the permit, after the first 10 days the permit itself is invalid unless accompanied by the certification of the account establishment.
Ask your child's school to complete the relevant section of the form, if applicable. The state of California requires all children of kindergarten age and older to provide certification from the child's school; New York has a similar requirement. Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Vermont and Virginia also require some form of approval or records from the school district.
Mail the application to the state department issuing the permits. For faster service, New Yorkers can obtain a one time 15-day temporary permit online. California does not have an online option but the Van Nuys Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, or DLSE, has a walk-in, while-you-wait service at this location only. At all other California DLSE locations, parents can drop off the application in person -- providing a stamped addressed envelope -- and the permit will process and mail out within three business days.
Renew the permit before the existing permit expires. Permits in New York and California are valid for six months, but some states have longer lasting permits -- for example, permits in New Mexico are valid for one year.
Tips & Warnings
- Obtain the work permit and any renewals as far in advance as possible to avoid any interruption in work. Last minute services are not widely available and New York's temporary online permit is only available at the time of the initial application.
- California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Labor Standards Enforcement: Information on Minors and Employment
- California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Labor Standards Enforcement: Application for Permission to Work in the Entertainment Industry
- Official California Legislative Information: AB 1401 Assembly Bill -- Bill Analysis
- U.S. Department of Labor: Child Entertainment Laws As of January 1, 2011
- New York State Department of Labor: Child Performer Frequently Asked Questions
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