WARNING: Bring a Consent Letter for International Travel with Kids

If you’re planning an out-of-country trip with children who are not your own (e.g., grandchildren, relatives, or children of friends), you should carry documentation showing that you have parental permission to do so, even if the kids in your care have the same name as you. Abduction of children across national boundaries has become an epidemic, and border agents the world over are demanding proof that kids travelling with adults who are not their parents are in safe hands.

Though there are no official international requirements that you need to have a letter of parental consent when taking kids into a foreign country, the reality is quite different, as border agents have every right to deny or delay your entry into their country if they suspect something is amiss. Consent letters from parents can help avoid such incidents.

The consent letter must be prepared by the parents. It does not have to be long or complicated. Too much information can be as bad as not enough. So just stick to the facts.

The letter should name the child or children, their dates and places of birth, current address, where they will be staying, their travel itinerary, flight numbers (if available), and their passport numbers—and yes, you should definitely get passports for your children. Do not assume that because the adults have passports, the kids won’t need any. Those days are gone.

In addition, the parents should provide similar information about you as the adult in charge of the trip: your full name, address, passport number, and so on, as well as information about where they (the parents) can be reached by phone, fax, email, or some other means if the border agent needs verification.

If the parents of the young travellers are separated or divorced, the need for parental consent is even more important. How often do we hear of one parent absconding with a child to a distant country out of reach by the other? Too often. Border officials are always on the lookout for such situations, and they are perfectly free to grill you until they are satisfied you have good intentions.

If the parents of the young travellers are separated or divorced, try, if at all possible, to get them both to cooperate in granting consent. Any letter or form that has only one parent’s signature where it asks for two will ring a warning bell in the border agent’s head. You might be required, in such a case, to provide additional documentation, and that will cause you an inevitable delay. But having both signatures eliminates any doubt in the border agent’s mind that consent is legitimate. Estranged parents should realize the trip is a gift to their children. It’s not a battle-axe.

To assist you in creating your letter, we have a sample consent letter that we have been offering TIF visitors for several years. Since there is no standardized international form or document for this purpose, we have designed this sample letter by taking the best elements of the various guidelines that do exist. It is short, simple, and free.

You can also refer to the sample form provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. This form is somewhat longer.


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