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Required Documents for Travel with Minors

Did you know that a child departing the United States and traveling with only one parent, a guardian, grandparents or other adults, must have written and notarized permission from both birth parents or legal guardians to enter many countries, even on a cruise ship?

In an effort to halt international child abduction, runaways, and the transport of children involved in child-custody disputes, American carriers have been cracking down on adults departing the U.S. with minors. “This is due to the enhanced awareness of children’s rights in the last few years because of the Hague Convention,” explains the Immigration Program Manager at the Canadian Consulate in New York.

Click here for a sample "Permission To Travel" letter you can print out, fill in, and carry with you on all future international travels.

To reinforce this policy, since July 2001, the U.S. Department of State has required that both legal parents or guardians provide written consent when applying for a U.S. Passport for a child under 14. For more specific information, visit www.travel.state.gov/passport_services.html (visit www.travel.state.gov/npicinfo.html to read about these charges). 

Additional paperwork is required for international travel with minors to Canada, Mexico and to several other countries. A spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State advises families:  "Contact the embassy of your destination country or study the Consular Information Sheets provided at www.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.”

In fact, the Consular Information Sheets issued by the U. S. State Dept., which does not make these regulations, now carry this routine warning:  "In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.  These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present.  Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure."

As one of our clients and her son discovered while checking in to an American Airlines flight to Cancun, (Even when they were told this was required) Mexican law requires that if only one parent or non-custodial adult(s) is accompanying a minor under 18 into Mexico, he/she must bear a notarized letter from the child’s other parent(s) or guardian(s) granting permission to enter Mexico with the child, including the dates of travel, the accompanying adult’s name, contact information, and a notarized  signature.

A Carnival Cruise Lines spokesperson noted documentation wasn’t mandatory on Carnival’s Mexico-bound cruises “unless the child is spending more than 24 hours in Mexico.” Mexican Consular Officer corroborated this but added, “In case of weather or other cruise delay, it’s better if adults have the notarized permission letter. In any case, it is required for American minors entering Mexico by air, no matter how long their stay.”

Canadian customs officers, who are the primary line of inspection for visitors, may require a notarized statement from both parents when they find a child under 18 traveling alone or with other adults. All carriers, including air, sea and land, can be fined for bringing people into Canada without the proper documentation.” A consular officer at the U.S. Office of Children's Issues verified that many countries require a Permission to Travel letter, and reiterated that parents’ notarized signatures plus identification for the child (certified birth certificate or passport), were both essential.

A spokesperson for the Airlines confirmed that they are enforcing this rule in order to comply with the foreign immigration process. A 2002 incident aboard the Norwegian Wind sailing for Alaska via Canada was one of the first indications  that cruise lines are now more cautious about boarding children without the proper documentation. At Royal Caribbean, an agent interviewed about Canada-bound cruises suggested single parents or other adults traveling with a minor carry notarized documentation “to be on the safe side.” And, in the experience of FTF member families, notarized documents have been requested from single parents driving with children at both the Canadian and Mexican land borders. 

Documentation is especially important in situations such as travelers with different last names, same sex couples, and adoptive, divorced or widowed parents, who should carry certified custody or death certificates, as well as identification for themselves and the child.

Click here for a sample "Permission To Travel" letter you can print out, fill in, and carry with you on all future international travels.

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www.vacationshop.com * Travel@Vacationshop.com