Pretty soon school will be out and many of you will be taking grandchildren, nieces, nephews and perhaps some of their friends along with you to foreign countries. BUT BE WARNED: regardless which country you will be visiting, you will need proper documentation and travel authorization from the lawful parents or guardians to be taking the kids across international borders.
There are no specific laws requiring you to have such authorization, but border agents in virtually all countries around the globe are cracking down on unauthorized cross-border travel involving minors—even if those minors are part of your family and have your own name. And if a border agent says you don’t enter the country, you don’t. That goes for the United States too. It’s all part of a worldwide effort to curb child abductions, estranged-parent “kidnappings”, and other illegal forms of exploitation.
What do you need?
First of all, you need a passport of your own. Anyone who anticipates foreign travel (and that includes a short hop to an adjacent country) and does not have a passport in this day and age needs to get real. I posted an advisory on this subject a couple of weeks ago. If you still doubt your need to get a passport, read it.
Next, the kids need their own passports in their own names: no matter what their age. It’s their right, and it’s up to you and/or their parents to fulfill that responsibility. They’ll have to get them sooner or later. It’s not as difficult as you may think. And a passport is invaluable proof of citizenship and identity.
Then you need a verifiable, notarized letter from the children’s parents and/or their legal guardians that you have the authority to take them out of the country. The letter should specify where you are going, how long you will be staying and who will responsible for them. If the parents are separated or divorced, have the authorization signed by the custodial parent and, if possible, get the signature of the non-custodial parent as well. This may be a little tricky if the parents are not talking to each other, but make the point that it’s the kids’ welfare and convenience that you’re talking about, not theirs.
In case you are a non-custodial parent wanting to take your child out of the country, you will definitely need to have your ex—if he or she is the legal custodial parent– sign the authorization. This is critical. We have seen some very messy situations of parental “kidnapping” or abduction recently and border agents don’t want to get caught in the middle. If this is your situation, expect to be challenged if you don’t have the right paperwork. And even if you are the custodial parent, having the authorization of the other parent is irrefutable sound backup.
It’s not complicated. You can print a copy of a sample consent letter right off this homepage. Look at the upper right corner. Governments usually don’t have “official” letters for this purpose, but they have samples. Our sample is derived from the best of several countries so we know it works and it is the easiest to complete.
And when travelling with kids, don’t forget to make sure each of them is covered with private travel medical insurance. Check with the insurance providers advertising on our pages—most of them offer family plans that can save you a lot of money. And remember that some countries will not allow you entry unless you have proof of private medical insurance that meets their requirements. Your provincial plans will not.