Permission Needed for Crossing Borders with Grandkids

With spring break coming up, many seniors will be taking their grandchildren for out-of-country trips.

Sounds good. But first you need to be prepared with appropriate letters of permission from both parents, or the custodial parent—whichever situation applies.

Border agents the world over are now demanding documentation that the kids you’re travelling with—whether they are your own family or friends of your grandkids—are legitimately travelling, approved by their parents, and not being abducted. And that doesn’t apply just when they’re going to faraway exotic lands. One of my own recent trips from the US to Canada with a grandchild was made infinitely easier because I had the documents I needed: a letter of approval, signed by both his parents, notarized, dated, specifically outlining the travel itinerary, even listing our flight numbers. It was a breeze. But I could tell from the demeanour of the border agent that he wasn’t kidding. And neither should you.

Even if you grandkids have your name, as do mine, you need documentation before you take them across the border. To make it easy for you, we are providing a sample letter that you can print off from this site. It’s free. There is no standardized international form, so I have designed the above by taking the best elements of samples suggested by the governments of the US, Canada, and the UK.

Here are some other tips for international travel with kids:

  • Make sure they have their own passports—no matter how old they are. They are entitled to them.
  • Have travel insurance with your grandchild’s name on it—either individual coverage or family coverage. The child’s name, age, address, and parents’ names should be on it.
  • Make sure you have appropriate visas for you and your grandchildren if you are going to a country that requires visas, and make sure the kids have their own or are listed on yours. Don‘t take it for granted that because you have a visa, the kids will automatically be accepted. It doesn’t work that way.
  • Also carry a notarized letter from the child’s parents or custodial parent authorizing you to allow the child to be hospitalized or treated in case of a medical emergency. Foreign hospitals will in many cases insist on seeing such authorization.

Note for separated or divorced parents:

If you are separated or divorced from your spouse or ex-spouse, having permission to cross borders with your children is especially important. Always try to get a notarized letter (the sample I have on this site is designed for you too) from your ex, even if you are the custodial parent. It’s a lot easier. Sometimes it’s impossible, but if you can, do it. And if you’re not the custodial parent, it is mandatory.


For more travel tips and articles, check out the Ingle International blog.

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