What Exactly is an Entertainment Work Permit?


For those of you who don’t know, an Entertainment Work Permit is a document you must have in order for your child (17 years old and younger) to work in the Entertainment Industry.  It is required in most states that have a relatively large representation of film or TV productions taking place there. The top four in the United States would be Georgia, Los Angeles, New York, and Louisiana, according to the Film LA Annual Feature Film Study from last year.  This year’s is likely to come out soon.

The work permit is provided by the state government Department of Industrial Relations (DOIR) to protect the child from being exploited, overworked and put in unsafe working conditions.  Production companies must follow its rules that govern: how many hours a child can work before requiring a break; access to food and water; access to restrooms and shade or heat; total work hours allowed in a 24 hour period or week; what time work can start and must end; and much more.  Many of these rules change with the age of the child.

Every production, no matter how small or unprofessional, must have a studio teacher present.  Even student productions.  Even if it is summer.  If there is a child on set there MUST be a studio teacher.  While these teachers do some teaching – usually 3 hours per day on set – they’re primarily there as a welfare worker to make sure the child is safe and the production is following the rules.  If there is no studio teacher you should tell production they need to get one immediately by calling teachers union at 818-559-9797 or 818-559-9600 after hours. More info at http://www.thestudioteachers.com/

Aside from regulating safety rules the permit shows that the parent is providing their child with an appropriate education.  The permit must be signed by an authorized school official, even for home schooled children.  That official will certify that the child is meeting attendance requirements including tardies; that grades are in good standing; that their age matches school records; and the child is in good health.  The DOIR wants to make sure that the parent isn’t preventing the child from receiving and education guaranteed them in the US Bill of Rights by allowing/forcing them to work in the entertainment industry.

Here is an excerpt concerning children’s rights from the ACLU’s website:

All kids living in the United States have the right to a free public education. And the Constitution requires that all kids be given equal educational opportunity no matter what their race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen. Even if you are in this country illegally, you have the right to go to public school.

The other consideration is the child’s health.  If a child has a disability or health related issue they  shouldn’t be discriminated against but it does need to be safe for them to work on a set.  In some cases a medical approval given by a doctor may be required.  Thankfully there is a much larger representation of children with disabilities on our screens these days so there is a greater chance that they may want to hire a person with the actual disability as opposed to an actor pretending to have it.

Actually, most working minors needs a work permit whether they are an actor or not. Exceptions include neighborhood jobs like; delivering the paper; shoveling the sidewalks; household chores or babysitting, for example.  And as long as the job isn’t hazardous kids can usually work for their parents without a permit.  Again, rules vary by state and by age. You can read more at www.youthrules.gov or head over to the Fair Labor Standards Act and get neck deep into the details.  Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) If state law and the FLSA overlap, the law which is more protective of the minor will apply.

Here are some tips to getting your work permit processed quickly and easily:

Tip 1 – Plan Ahead

  • It can take up to 3 weeks for a work permit to get processed.
  • The form says the permits will be processed within 3 days then mailed.
  • Allow at least 1 week for your school’s administrator to sign the application or renewal form.
  • Set alerts in your calendar a month before the permit expires.

Tip 2 – Have Your Paperwork In Order

The first time you apply for the permit you will need:

  • A filled out application that is completed and signed by a school official. There are questions that they must answer regarding attendance, grades and health of child.  They are required to pull the child’s record and review it before signing.
  • The school must stamp or emboss it with their official seal or provide a signed letter on official school letterhead.
  • All signatures must be in original ink – No photocopies or faxes.
  • If you are mailing it, you must also complete a pre addressed stamped envelope so it can be mailed back to you or you can use the online system to retrieve and print your renewed permit.

Tip 3 – Three Ways to Renew or Apply

*In LA – I recommend going in-person to the Van Nuys office.

  • Online at https://permits.dir.ca.gov/ewp/ You can apply online for the first time after you create your account or renew your permit here.
  • By Mail Either go into a work permit office and pick up a form or go to the website to download and complete an Application for Permission to Work in Entertainment Industry. Be sure to print and sign your name on the first page.
  • In Person  You’ll have to look up your office here (https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DistrictOffices.htm) for California locations if you don’t live in Los Angeles.  If you are in LA the only office that allows walk-in and same-day pickup is the Van Nuys Entertainment Work Permit Unit.  It is located at 6150 Van Nuys Blvd, Room 100, and is available for walk-in application service from 9:00am to noon on Monday and Friday, and 9:00am to 4:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This office may be reached at (818) 901-5484.
  • If you live in another state you’ll need to look up the Department of Labor for your state to find the office nearest you. Not all states require permits for minors.

States that require a permit: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/childentertain.htm

  • Drop-off Locations in California. Provide a SASE and they will mail to you in about a week.

LOS ANGELES- 320 W. 4TH Street, Los Angeles, CA  90013    (213) 620-6330

LONG BEACH  300 Oceangate Blvd., Room 302, Long Beach, CA 90802    (562) 590-5048

SANTA ANA  605 W. Santa Ana Blvd. Bldg 28/Rm 625, Santa Ana, CA 92701   (714) 558-4910

BAKERSFIELD  5555 California, Room 200, Bakersfield, CA 93309    (909) 383-6392

SAN BERNARDINO  464 W. 4TH Street, Room 348, San Bernardino, CA 92401   (909) 383-4334

SANTA BARBARA  411 E. Canon Perdido, Room 3, Santa Barbara, CA 93101    (805) 568-1222

SAN DIEGO  7575 Metropolitan Drive, Room 210, San Diego, CA 92108    (619) 220-5451

Troubleshooting Tips

Sometimes the permit is rejected. Here are some things to look out for:

Tip 1.  Make sure your child keeps their grades up. A 2.0 is the minimum GPA (C or 70% average)

  • If your child has special needs or is on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or other specific education or health plan, then you may need to provide a copy of this when you renew, especially if you are using the report card method instead of the Official Renewal Form signed by the School Official and your child’s grades are not at grade level standards.
  • If for some reason the grades are lower than the state approves but you have a good reason (medical issue, family emergency, etc..), you can bring a letter on school letterhead acknowledging grades that gives permission to get the work permit due to special circumstances and is signed by the School Official. They will also call the official to get a verbal verification.  This also applies to excessive tardies or absences.

Tip 2.  Attendance is very important, especially according to California State Law. Summary:

  • if your child is between 6 and 18 years old and they have more than 3 unexcused absences; 3 unexcused tardies; and/or three absences exceeding 30 minutes of a class period you’ll get a letter from your school district to alert that your child is truant.  Your child is classified as Chronically Truant if any of these things happen 5 or more times.  Here are the rules regarding excused absences in California: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=EDC&sectionNum=48205
  • Anytime your child has a valid excuse you need to make sure you turn in the proper documentation to your school so you don’t accrue unnecessary unexcused absences. This may include proof of a doctor visit.

Tip 3.  Keep a folder of important documents with you at all times on-set and when completing paperwork.

  • Use a folder or binder and keep a copy of your child’s birth certificate, passport, work permit and permit renewals forms, recent report card and or IEP, etc… If you have a health issue, then the letter from the doctor approving your child to work should be in there too.
  • It’s also good to have proof of Coogan Account (usually a letter on the banks letterhead with account info or an account statement). I also encourage you to keep a copy of the CA (or your state) labor laws that pertain to children working in entertainment.

Tip 4.  Know the hours of your Entertainment Work Permit Office.

  • Office hours for this service vary widely. Go online or call your local office to make sure you know when they are open and if they allow drop-off only or drop-off and pick-up of forms.

Tip 5.  Make sure your form is completely and correctly filled out.

  • If you make an edit to your form, they will not accept it. Even if you initial it.
  • Double check it before you leave the school in case the office missed something.
  • If you are renewing online, be sure that the scan of your form is readable.
  • If you are renewing online and your school embossed their seal, you’ll need to darken it by rubbing a black crayon or pencil to make it readable in when you scan it.
  • Do not alter the form or the permit. It’s a Federal document and against the law.

Tip 6.  Always be courteous.

  • Golden Rule applies here and everywhere, really: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Remember the people working at this office are in-fact people. You can choose to be a ray of sunshine or a dark cloud.  Who would you want to deal with?

Tip 7.  Be Honest.

  • I shouldn’t have to mention this, but it was brought to my attention that the office staff have learned not to trust parents because parents will lie/forge info to get work permits approved.
  • Let’s change the perceptions about the ‘crazy stage mom’ and show them that we are good parents who put our kid’s education / health first and model good citizenship.

I hope this information helps make your experience getting a work permit go smoothly.  I’m not an expert, just a parent like you, so there may be things that differ state to state and office to office.  It’s always best to contact your own office before you start the process.