In some circumstances, your children may need a travel consent letter to leave the country – when and why?
There are numerous social and neurological benefits to travelling for adults and children alike. As a parent, travelling with your child(ren) can be extremely rewarding, with opportunities to make memories that will last a lifetime. It’s likely that you already have an extensive list of things to get done before you head to the airport. While you’re making your travel arrangements, you’ll have to consider whether your child will need a travel consent form. Depending on the circumstances, arriving at the airport without a consent form for your child could cause issues and delays with authorities.
What is a travel consent letter?
The sad and unfortunate reality is that child abduction and trafficking are problems worldwide. Canadian authorities may ask to see a travel consent letter that affirms the child has permission to travel to protect travelling minors. Although it’s not a legal requirement, it’s considered an asset – especially when travelling internationally. Failure to present these documents upon request could cause travel delays, or your child could be denied entry or exit entirely. Immigration authorities in foreign countries, airline agents, and Canadian officials may ask for a travel consent form at any point during a trip.
The Government of Canada has a sample travel consent letter on their website. The letter should always include the following information:
- Full name of the child
- The passport number of the child and the adult travelling with them (if at all)
- Place, date, and country of birth
- Birth certificate number
- Full name and contact information of each parent
- Details of the trip (i.e., travel dates, where the child will be staying and with whom)
- The signature of the parent(s) consenting to travel (must be done in the presence of a notary public)
When does a child need a consent letter?
Suppose both birth parents of a child are travelling with them. In that case, a consent letter typically isn’t necessary unless they have different last names. If only one parent is accompanying a minor, a consent letter may be required to confirm the legitimacy of the travel if the parent is single, separated or divorced. Although this may seem extreme, it can help prevent parental abductions.
Other circumstances in which a minor may need a travel consent letter:
- When travelling alone
- The parents are travelling separately for a portion of the trip
- If they’re with a group, school, sports teams, social group, etc.
- When travelling with other family members, friends, or other adults accompanying children without their parents
Only minors are required to provide travel consent forms. The age of the majority may be different depending on the country of destination, so it’s essential to do research ahead of time. Generally speaking, a minor is anyone under 18, but it could also be 19 or 21 in some cases.
Travel consent letters are common in Canada, but other countries may require similar documentation, and some are stricter than others. Other countries include:
- The USA
- Costa Rica
- The Netherlands
- South Africa
When your child is travelling internationally, it’s always a good idea to call the consulate of the country they’re visiting ahead of time. They’ll tell you whether a consent form is necessary, if it needs to be notarized and what their age of majority is. You can also use that opportunity to confirm if there are any additional travel documents your child may need for that specific country.
Some additional documents may include:
- A translated, original travel consent letter in the language of the country they’re travelling to
- Long-form birth certificates of both parents
- A death certificate if one of the child’s parents are deceased
- Any court orders involving guardianship, custody, access rights, etc.
Frequently asked questions
Do you need the other parent’s consent if you’re the parent with sole custody?
If the other parent has no legal access rights, carrying a true copy of a court order (or equivalent documentation) that proves sole custody should suffice. However, if the other parent does have some legal rights, it’s best to get consent from them if possible.
Do you need a new travel consent form every time your child travels?
Generally, the consent letter is only applicable for the trip specified in the letter. However, suppose your child frequently travels over a particular duration of time (e.g., travelling with a sports team). In that case, you can outline that travel period in your document.
What happens if your child has a different last name than yours?
When your last names are different, you may need to provide proof of your relationship to your children, such as name change, marriage, adoption forms and birth certificates. Similar documents may be required if one of the child’s birth parents has a different last name from the child, the other parent, or both.
Who needs to sign the letter?
The Government of Canada recommends that every non-accompanying individual, parent, or organization that has legal rights to make decisions for the child sign the letter. Anyone over the age of majority can be present to witness the signing of the documents. However, it’s highly advised that a notary public witnesses all parties’ signatures in order to guarantee authenticity.
Should you consult a lawyer before getting a travel consent letter?
It’s not always necessary to consult with a lawyer when getting a travel consent letter for your child. However, it’s recommended if there are specific legal issues regarding your child’s and family’s situation. There may be terms or restrictions related to international travel when it comes to parenting and custody agreements. You should always consult with a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns about the information presented in the letter.