Thinking about traveling during your child's next school vacation period across international borders? Be prepared. Not only will you need your child's passport, if you are traveling without your child's other legal parent, you'll need a Permission to Travel Letter.
A child departing from the United States and other countries, traveling with only one parent, a guardian, grandparents or other adults must have a written and notarized Permission to Travel Letter from both legal parents or legal guardians to enter many countries. In fact, if the child is on a cruise ship, the child will need such a letter to participate in shore excursions.
Minors traveling in groups: Sometimes, minors under 18 leave the United States with school groups, teen tours, or friends on a vacation. Minors traveling with sports teams and academic study programs must have a similar Minor Consent to Travel form.
Childrens Travel Permission Letters Required for Cruises Too
Such concerns apply not only to air and land travel, but to cruise travel as well. Major cruise lines require the notarized Permission to Travel Letter for any children wishing to do any on-shore excursions.
What's a Proper Form for a Childrens Travel Permission Letter?
A notarized Permission to Travel Letter (or Parental Consent Letter) from the child's other parent(s) or guardian(s) granting permission to cross international borders with a minor child should include, at a minimum, the dates of travel, the accompanying adult's name, all contact information, and a notarized signature. Be aware that some countries may require an apostile. You can learn more about this requirement on the State Department's website.
Is a copy of the permission to travel letter good enough? Some countries require a notarized original copy of the Permission to Travel Letter before even accepting a visa application for minors. Many countries also require that the authorization notes are in the national language of the country and notarized and authenticated by the nation's embassy or consulate. For information on the requirements for travel to a specific country by an American citizen, visit US Department of State International Travel Information page. When in doubt about the information, it's best to call the Visa Section of the embassy or consulate of your intended destination.
Obtaining a Free Permission to Travel Letter Form
You may download a sample "Permission To Travel" letter here, print it out, fill it in, have it notarized, and carry it with you on all future international travels. It is strongly recommended that children travelling alone or with one parent carry a consent letter for every trip abroad. To avoid having the validity of the letter questioned, be sure to have the consent letter certified, stamped, or sealed by an official with the authority to administer an oath or solemn declaration. Think about having several copies of the Permission to Travel Letter at the same time if you are applying for foreign visas. Carry two copies with you on your vacation in case a border official at either end asks to keep a copy or in case one copy is lost.
Why are Permission to Travel Letters Required?
It's all about protecting children and detering international child abduction. The U.S. Department of State is committed to protecting the rights of children and preventing and/or deterring parental abductions. The requirement that travelers crossing international borders must provide an affidavit for children traveling outside their home country is due to the enhanced awareness of children's rights intended to be protected by the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. As of November 17, 2012, this treaty created to deter international child abductions is in force between the United States and 86 other countries and territories, including Canada and Mexico. You may find a complete list of signatories to the convention here.
The harm caused to children by parental abduction is well-documented in publications from the U.S. Department of Justice. See A Family Resource Guide on International Parental Abduction. To stop these tragic crimes, to help prevent the transport of runaways or children whose parents are embroiled in child-custody disputes, the State Department and cooperating American carriers require special documents such as Permission to Travel Letters from adults departing the U.S. with minors.
Another important protection for traveling children is that hospitals and doctors treating minors who are not in their home country be provided with proper Medical Authorization forms. Some doctors or facilities may refuse to treat minors unless it is clear that the adult traveling with the child as written permission or affidavits from both parents that authorizes treatment that the child might need. In addition, proof of medical insurance coverage is also important to provide and may be required at emergency care facilities.
Getting a U. S. Passport or Foreign Passport for a Minor
The U.S. Department of State requires that every citizen, no matter the age, traveling outside the US by air carry her own passport and appear in person to apply for one. Because of the heightened awareness of international parental abduction, the U.S. Department of State strictly enforce guidelines to get a passports for a minor. The application process usually requires the presence of both parents, with photo ID and proof of parentage. Sometimes, as when the parents do not reside in the same locale, application may be made with one parent's appearance if that parent has a notarized statement of consent from the second parent or legal guardian. The State Department requires the non-appearing parent to complete a notarized Form 3053. You can read more about this process and download the form on the State Department's website.
Exceptions are made if there's documented evidence that a minor has only one guardian; for example, divorce papers, death certificate, adoption papers or a lawyer's letter would indicate that the presence of one legal guardian is sufficient. This is a complex issue, explained in more detail on the State Department's website.
Protecting Against Issuance of a U. S. Passport for a Minor
Parents who are or have been involved in a high-conflict divorce and child custody process may elect to enter their children into the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program . The program provides notification to parents if passport applications are made on behalf of minor children. If appropriate court orders are on file with the CPIAP, passport issuance will be denied. The Office of Children's Issues will provide more information.
Do Not Board Program
All the airlines follow this protocol. The US Airways website confirms that they enforce this during the check-in process with the posted rule: "If adult passengers do not have the proper documents, as defined by the U.S. Department of State guidelines, boarding is denied in order to comply with international regulations and the foreign immigration process."
Visas & Travel Documents for Minors
Many foreign countries are revising their visa procedures as well given heightened concerns about global security. You may review the travel alert bulletins from the U.S. State Department here to see what concerns, if any, the U.S. Department of State has about travel to certain countries. Contact the embassy of your destination country or study the Consular Information Sheets provided at http://travel.state.gov to find out what that country's requirements will be in terms of documentation, in order to bring a child into the country.
Are you in need of an attorney to help you recover your abducted child? Telephone Jeanne M. Hannah today at (231) 275-5600. See her website http://parentalkidnapping.com for information.