How to Get an Entertainment Work Permit for Minors

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From Disney child stars to Broadway’s youngest trainees, minors must obtain an entertainment work permit to become employed in the entertainment industry. Here’s everything you need to know about the entertainment work permit, why it’s necessary, and how to get one.

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What is an entertainment work permit?

An entertainment work permit for minors is a legal document that authorizes underage performers to be employed to work in entertainment, including commercials, film, television, theater, modeling, and voiceover. 

The work permit requires the parent or guardian to grant permission for the minor to work in a professional setting. It allows them to make informed decisions regarding schedules, educational needs, and work demands and conditions. 

Permits are twofold: one part must be obtained by the minor’s parent or legal guardian, and, in some states, the other by the employer hiring the child. The minor’s work permit focuses on safeguarding their interests, and the employer’s work permit guarantees that it will meet all requirements. Together, the entertainment work permit helps ensure the safety and wellness of young performers while employed and working. It is also a way for the legal system to divide responsibilities and enforce accountability on both sides.

Many states also protect minor performer earnings by requiring trust accounts before accepting work permit applications. Legislation initiatives such as the Coogan Law help ensure that income earned by minors is explicitly reserved for them when they come of age.

Child entertainment regulations vary by state. Some, such as Alabama and Idaho, do not require work permits. However, the biggest locations for entertainment production—California, Georgia, and New York—require that young performers obtain work permits up to age 18. In some states, a work permit is not needed if the minor graduates high school or passes a high school proficiency examination before 18.

Why is the entertainment work permit necessary for child/teen actors?

In California and many other states, work permits ensure that employers comply with essential rules and regulations to protect minors while working. These include safe work conditions, hours, meals, rest periods, and educational needs.

Safe work conditions: Work permits require that the employer adheres to certain protocols to ensure a minor’s safety while filming. These protocols are more extensive than those used for adults, including requirements that sets are childproof and that employers hire trained personnel for emergencies and maintain proper supervision.

Work hours, meals, and rest periods: Child labor laws dictate the amount of hours minors can work in a day and in a week. They also require a certain amount of rest periods after working a certain amount of time. Generally, the time minors spend filming must be shorter than the time adults do, to allow for more breaks—which is why Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen both played Michelle Tanner on “Full House.” Work permits also outline specific guidelines for meal breaks, including how often they occur and how long they should be.

Educational needs: Work permits help guarantee that even filming the biggest blockbuster won’t overly interfere with a minor actor’s education. Under the California work permit, employers are required to hire studio teachers to instruct minor performers for at least three hours of school, depending on age and hours on set, during each workday. 

What are the different types of work permits? 

In California and many other states, there are two types of entertainment work permits: temporary and standard.

Ten-day temporary work permit: If this is the first time a minor is getting a work permit, they’ll likely need the 10-day temporary one, which is only available to first-time applicants who have not previously applied. 

According to the California Department of Industrial RelationsThis is a one-time temporary permit for new applicants only, which is issued immediately following completion of the online application and payment of a fee. Social Security Numbers (SSN) are not required.

Six-month entertainment work permit: The standard work permit lasts six months and can be renewed at that time free of charge. There is no limit to how many times you can obtain this permit.

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, “The entertainment work permit must be renewed every six months until a minor reaches 18 years of age. The minor’s parent or guardian must register for the permit and submit supporting documents described above.”

How to get an entertainment work permit

Child actors in costumes backstage

Nicoleta Ionescu/Shutterstock

Entertainment work permits can be obtained through each state’s labor department or division of labor. You’ll need to complete and submit an application with any required documents. In most cases, the application can be submitted either online or by mail. For California, the steps are:

1. Gather documents. Depending on the child’s age and if they attend school in person or virtually, you will gather required documents that might include the following:

  • Birth certificate
  • Baptismal certificate
  • Passport
  • Official letter from the hospital where the minor was born
  • If the minor is an infant, you’ll need a letter from a licensed physician attesting the infant is at least 15 days old and in good health to withstand work requirements 

You’ll also need documentation of school records if the child is at the age of attending school.

  • School records are required when the minor is in grades 1 through 12.
  • When school is in session, the application must be approved by a school officiant.
  • When school is not in session, the application may be sent with a copy of the minor’s report card showing the minor is in satisfactory standing.

2. Complete and submit the application: You can fill out and submit the work permit application online or by mail. The permit can be submitted online or by mail at the Department of Industrial Relations or the Labor Commissioner’s Office.

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