California law requires that all children working in the industry, birth to age 18 (or high school graduation) must have an Entertainment Work Permit. This permit is a different type of work permit than the one normally issued to working teens by their school. The Entertainment Work Permit is issued by the State of California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE for short). The DLSE issues approximately 50,000 work permits every six months.
Since most production is based in California, child actors living in other states may also want to secure a California permit in addition to any permit required by their home state. To obtain a California work permit, the parent must fill out an application (link below), get it signed by their child's school, and submit any additional paperwork required depending on their situation (a birth certificate for example). Plan in advance - the process takes time!
In 2008, the DLSE offices began a consolidation of work permits services. The permits are now numbered to identify the child and the computer system is centralized, preventing parents from getting denied at one office and then getting a permit at a different DLSE location. As of 8/09, all Southern California offices were sending the permit applications on the Van Nuys office and parents were instructed to send their permit applications directly to Van Nuys.
Van Nuys is also the only DLSE office that will issue permits over the counter. This function is not required by law though, so they could change this policy at any time. Don't plan on walking the permit in!
UPDATE: California legislation AB1401 established an online process for those needing an immediate permit for the first time applicant. This is called a 10 Day Temporary Entertainment Work Permit. There is a $50.00 fee for this service. Please find information and the application here:
Currently, a pilot program exists for regular Entertainment Work Permit applications and renewals to be submitted online.
If you prefer to obtain an Entertainment Work Permit in the mail, the application and information can be found here:
BizParentz does not recommend using services who charge a fee to obtain a work permit. Why? There is educational value to the work permit process itself. We feel it is important that parents keep their personal information confidential (not sharing personal information with a 3rd party) , learn how to navigate this government gateway to the industry, understand that they are signing a legal document (you are signing that you understand and will abide by the California labor laws), and that they learn to be good stewards of their child's money. That means not paying for something you can get for free.
Things to note about the paper application process include:
- Must be accompanied with a SASE for return.
- Permit, if issued, will be processed and mailed within 3 business days. Depending on the DLSE work load (heaviest in January and June), it can take several weeks.
- For information provided by the school counselor, teacher (not an attendance clerk or secretary) be certain that THEY indicate their title next to the signature. This has become a messy area lately... so avoid the confusion and follow that guideline. Homeschooled families can expect to get extra scrutiny--make sure your paperwork is in order. If you have an R-4 Affidavit, consider sending it in with your renewal.
- Note requirements for physicians indicating information about infants 15 days or less. Older children do not need a physical.
- Attach a copy of the old permit.
Requirements for keeping a work permit valid:
California law mandates that a work permit will be considered invalid if, within 10 days of issuance, a true and accurate copy of a Trustee Statement indicating the existence of a proper Coogan Blocked Trust Account is not attached. Enforcement of this continues to be hit and miss. However, the permits issued now have the following language printed ON them.
Pursuant of California Labor Code Section 1308.9 (a). with respect to the employment of a minor under a contract described in Section 6750 of California Family Code, this permit shall be void after the expiration of 10 business days from the date hereof unless it is attached to a true and correct dopy of the trustee's statement evidencing the establishment of a "Coogan Trust Account" for the benefit of the minor named herein.
Parents will need to be prepared for what might potentially happen at the workplace, and be able to comply with this requirement.
NOTE: Updated information Effective January 1, 2014 - pursuant to AB533, an ammendment to the prior Coogan law exempts an employer of a minor for services as an extra, background perfomer, or in a similar capacity from withholding and depositing 15% of the child's wages into a Coogan account. Entertainment Work Permits utilized for these type of jobs will not be required to have a Trustee Statement attached.
See a sample of a Trustee Statement (including the information required to be on it by law) here: Statement of Trustee Sample (PDF)
DLSE office addresses