Your child will need two legal documents in order to work in the industry: a work permit from the state where he resides and a Social Security Card. Obtaining a work permit may vary from state to state. Please check with the Department of Social Services in your area. If you have a talent agency, they should also be able to help you with this.
The Work Permit
Obtaining a work permit for your child is easy. In California you can get one at no cost from the "Entertainment Work Permit Department" found at the Department of Social Services in your area. Work permits are good for a six-month period and must be renewed every six moths thereafter. Some parents make the mistake of waiting until the child booked a job before obtaining a work permit. Don't be caught unprepared! It is entirely possible to find your child has booked a job late Wednesday night and is expected to report to the set early Thursday morning. Without an original copy of a work permit from your state, your child will not be allowed to work. You won't fool the production people of the social worker/studio teacher by saying you lost if or left it at home.
For child actors, this is a hard and fast rule: without a work permit, your child will not be allowed to work!
Work permits are required by the child's home state and must be signed off by a social worker/studio teacher who is hired by the state to take care of your child's school and labor needs on the job. If your child is shooting out of town or in another state, the social worker/studio teacher from his home state may want to accompany him to the state in which the project is being filmed.
Your child works under the laws of his home state, no matter where in the United States (or outside the United States) he is filming. For instance: if a child actor resides in California but is filming a project in Utah, the child and perhaps a California social worker/studio teacher will go to Utah to make the movie, but both will work under the laws of th e State of California. The child's parent or guardian must go as well, of course. The state makes no exceptions to the this rule. Labor laws have been designed by each state to protect both child and parent.
The first time you apply for a work permit, if your child is school age, you will need to present a copy of his birth certificate as well as the name and address of the school he currently attends. If school is in session, it must acknowledge that your child's grades and conduct are in good standing. If school is not in session, you must present a copy of your child's last report card with your application. If your child is under five years of age, you will only need to present a copy of his birth certificate to obtain a work permit.
After the initial permit is processed, the Department of Social Services will send your renewal forms by mail (two weeks before the current permit's expiration). Questions can be directed to the Department of Social Services. You will retain an original copy to be presented to the social worker/studio teacher when your child works; if you leave the original at home, you will have to return home to get it. Another original is kept by the Department of Social Services.
Social Security Card
The purpose of the Social Security Card is to allow payment to be made to your child when he is working. It is state-regulated; payment to a minor cannot legally be made until the number is secured and given to the company that hired your child. It should be easy to obtain a Social Security Card because most children acquire Social Security numbers for their parents' income tax deduction purposes.
A card can be obtained from the Department of Social Security either by mail or by visiting a local office. Call 800-772-1213 to have an application sent to you through the mail. You can also visit their Web site. The forms are available on-line. Two forms of identification are required, a birth certificate and any other form of identification with the information of your child's birth printed on it. If you want to visit the office in person, call the Social Security office to make sure the office still does business at the listed location; offices close on a regular basis and you may have to travel a long distance to find one that is open.
For more information, read our Parent's Guide to Child Acting and Modeling
« Back To Main Advice