International Travel With Children Requires Documentation

With summer vacation season coming on, many of you will be taking grandchildren, nieces, nephews and perhaps some of their friends along with you to foreign countries. But BE WARNED: you need proper documentation and travel authorization from the lawful parents or guardians.

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. 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, the basics. 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. There is no excuse. That’s just sheer negligence.

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 verifiable, notarized letters from the children’s parents and/or their legal guardians that you have the authority to take them out of the country, 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.

Border agents are becoming leery of any single parents taking children out of the country, even those with custodial rights. So go the extra mile and ask you ex to co-operate—for the sake of the kids.

Also, make sure you get all parental signatures—custodial parents or otherwise—properly notarized.

Having them simply witnessed is not good enough.

Unfortunately, there are no standardized, international forms put out by governments that carry legal force. The most they do is provide samples of what they consider would be acceptable to other governments, and some I have seen get a little caught up in legal jargon.  However, I have put together a composite version from several sources that exceeds any requirements I have seen on government websites. Feel free to use it. It’s free.The format and information contained in it should be applicable for travel to any country. I must caution, however, that it is not an official document and Travelinsurancefile will not be held responsible if you have a problem with its use.

It’s self explanatory and quite simple. Just make sure you get the parental or guardians’ signatures notarized. Border agents the world over like to see documents stamped. Click here for a printable version.

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