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. When you apply for a permit in California, you are signing, as a parent, that you understand and agree to abide by ALL the California laws for minors working in the entertainment industry.
Legislation related to entertainment work permits in California is in a few different places: Family Code 6750 – 6753, Family Code Section 771, Labor Code 138.908.7
The entity for the issuance and enforcement of work permits is the California Department of Labor and Standards Enforcement (DLSE)
2 Kinds of Permits
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. There are two kinds of Entertainment Work Permits:
1. 6 Month Entertainment Work Permit: This is the normal process and the permit is good for six months, at which time you will renew using the same process. It is Free.
2. 10 day Temporary Permit: This permit is only available for first time applicants. You can only get it once. The process is slightly abbreviated — it is issued immediately. This expedited permit costs $50. A parent might choose this option if their child is a baby one month or older, if they are cast suddenly or if they are out of state and weren’t expecting to deal with California laws. You will be allowed to work for 10 days, during which time you will need to complete the normal 6 month permit application.
3 Ways to Get A Permit
There are three ways to obtain a California work permit: online, mail-in, or walk-in. No matter which delivery method you choose, the parent must fill out an application, get it signed by their child’s school (students must be “satisfactory” as determined by the school), and submit any additional paperwork required depending on their situation (a birth certificate for first time applicants,a physician’s note for a newborn, or sexual harassment prevention training for teens). Plan in advance – the process takes time!
The DLSE is working to consolidate work permit services to the Van Nuys DLSE office. 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. The wisest move is to simply mail your permit to the Van Nuys office in the first place. Van Nuys is also the only DLSE office that will issue permits over the counter. This walk-in function is not required by law though, so they could change this policy at any time. Don’t plan on walking the permit in!
COVID UPDATE: As of March 2020, the Van Nuys office will only issue work permits over the counter if you have a note from production (not your agent or manager) saying that you have a job. If you need this function, production will need to send an email on their production letterhead stating the child’s name, date and name of the job. The email must be send to both email addresses: Ewpemail@example.com AND firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
In California, all workers are required to take sexual harassment prevention training. In 2020, this requirement was extended to child actors through a series of laws that was passed requiring sexual harassment training for teens and their parents before a work permit is issued. Please do not pay for training, as the correct training is offered online for free by the State. Actors aged 14 and up will need to take the 2 hour module with their parent and download a certificate that you will attach to your work permit applications and renewals. For more about this requirement, see our website page Sexual Harassment Prevention Training and Your CA Work Permit.
Tips for the Application Process:
- Mail-in applications must be accompanied with a SASE for return.
- Mail-in permits, 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.
- On-line permits also have a significant wait time. They are not instant, since a staff person still has to review your application.
- School seals: for the online application, we suggest asking your school to place a visible stamp, rather than a raised seal — raised seals don’t show up on the scans you submit and your permit may get rejected.
- Make sure your school name and your stamp match (ex. not a school name and a district stamp). They must match.
- 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.
- The Department of Education publishes a School Directory of schools registered in California, including homeschoolers who file an affidavit. The DLSE checks that database. Make sure your school info matches the database.
- Out of state families can expect to get extra scrutiny — make sure your paperwork is in order. CA civil servants, paid by CA tax payers, do not feel the need to go the extra mile for you. They can’t check your school in the CA database of schools, and they won’t call your school to verify. Exceptions won’t be handled well, or in a timely manner.
- 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. If you homeschool under an umbrella program (a charter school, for example) an administrator at the umbrella school will need to sign.
- 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.
- Do NOT attach Coogan account information. You will attach this to your permit for submission on set, but is not reviewed by the DLSE. Your child’s bank information should NEVER be shared with anyone but the employer (because they have to deposit the Coogan trust money there).
- RENEWALS: In 2020, the DLSE is transitioning to a new computer system. It requires you to create a new account and LINK the old account to it. Do not let your old permit expire before you create an account and link! If you do, you will have to apply for a new permit and get a new permit number. The system is also making you update passwords every six months, which is pretty annoying.
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 to the permit. 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.
See a sample of a Trustee Statement (including the information required to be on it by law) here: Statement of Trustee Sample (PDF)
Background Players Do Not Need a Coogan Account
Effective January 1, 2014 – pursuant to AB533, an amendment to the prior Coogan law, exempts an employer of a minor for services as an extra, background performer, 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.