Permission To Travel Letters And Why You Need Them

Author: Kyle McCarthy

Tags : Adoption, Baby, Health, Insurance & Safety, Kids, Multigen, Permission Forms, Step & Single Parents, Teens, Tips & Documents

Adults traveling outside the U.S. with children under 18, other than their own, must have a Permission or Consent to Travel Letter from both of the minors' guardians.

Did you know that a child departing 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 birth parents or legal guardians to enter many countries, even on a cruise ship's shore excursions?

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade reminds visitors that "Foreign officials and transportation companies are vigilant concerning documentation for children crossing international borders. Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children traveling with you, including any documents that might be required by the authorities of the country you intend to visit, and by Canadian authorities on your return to Canada with the child."

Travel Documents Help Protect our Kids

This requirement for an affidavit for children traveling outside their home country is due to the enhanced awareness of children's rights raised by the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. As of July 2011, this treaty created to deter international child abductions is in force between the United States and 82 other countries and territories, including Canada and Mexico.

Nevertheless, international child abduction stories are in the news all the time. To stop these tragic crimes, and prevent the transport of runaways or children involved in child-custody disputes, American carriers have been told to require special documents such as Permission to Travel Letters from adults departing the U.S. with minors.

Additionally, rising health care costs and legal issues have forced many medical providers to deny medical care to minors without proper Medical Authorization forms. Increasingly, written permission or affidavits from guardians who carry the minor's insurance coverage as well as proof of that medical insurance coverage are required at emergency care facilities.

The same regulations apply to minors under 18 who are leaving the United States with school groups, teen tours, or just friends on a vacation. Sports teams and academic study programs require a similar Minor Consent to Travel form.

Read on for tips on how to make this paperwork less of a burden, or just scroll to the bottom of this story to obtain sample forms.

Getting a U. S. Passport or Foreign Passport for a Minor

To enforce the Hague Convention provisions, 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. The very strictly enforced guidelines to get a passports for a minor require the presence of both parents, with photo ID and proof of parentage, or one parent's appearance with a notarized statement of consent from the second parent or legal guardian.

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 in FTF's Passport Guide or on the U.S. Passport Office.

If child custody issues are a concern for you, the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program provides notification to parents of passport applications made on behalf of minor children, and denial of passport issuance if appropriate court orders are on file with the CPIAP. The Office of Children's Issues will provide more information.

Citizens of other countries must check with their own country's embassy, as passport issuance laws have become more strict all over the world. For more information on this topic, and tips for parents with children of dual nationality or different counties of citizenship, Michelle Higgins' story in the New York Times Practical Traveler column should be of help.

If you're planning a foreign vacation, start this process early. United States' security and border regulations change frequently and the increased number of passport applications means a processing backlog at the National Passport Center.

 


Visas & Travel Documents for Minors

In an era of heightened global security, many foreign countries are revising their visa procedures as well. Laura Tischler, 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 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."

As one of our editors and her son discovered while checking in for an American Airlines flight to Cancun, Mexican law requires that if only one parent or non-custodial adult(s) is accompanying a minor under 18 into Mexico, he/she must carry a notarized Permission to Travel Letter (also known as a Parental Consent 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.

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."

In another incident concerning a press trip to Brazil, FTF's staff learned that 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 and navigate to the 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.

What Permission To Travel or Consent to Travel Letters Do

A consular officer at the U.S. Office of Children's Issues (888/407-4747) verified that many countries require a Permission to Travel letter with parents' notarized signatures, plus identification for the child (certified birth certificate or passport), and that both are essential.

Consular Information Sheets issued by the U. S. Department of State (which does not make these regulations) often carry this 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."

U.S. Customs & Border Protection spokesperson Kelly Ivahnenko recommends that all travelers read the helpful booklet “Know Before You Go.”  Although minors under 16 may enter Canada from the U.S. by land or sea with only a photocopy of their U.S. birth certificate, the CBP notes that children under age 18 must carry notarized travel permission letters if they are traveling without their parents.

Childrens Travel Permission Letters Required for Cruises Too

Such concerns apply not only to air and land travel, but to cruise travel as well. Carnival, for example, requires the notarized Permission to Travel Letter for any children debarking in Mexico, if only on a half-day shore excursion, so it's smart to check ahead with your cruise company. Mexican Consular Officer Hebe Cue advises, "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." 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."

Monica Campbell of the Canadian Tourism Commission agreed: "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."

Obtaining a Free Permission to Travel Letter Form

We recommend you download FTF's sample "Permission To Travel" letter from the next page, so you can print it out, fill it in, have it notarized, and carry it with you on all future international travels. We are often asked if notarizing the document is necessary, especially by Canadian families, who pay much higher notary fees than those in the U.S. According to the Canada Consular Affairs Office, "It is strongly recommended that children travelling alone or with one parent carry a consent letter for every trip abroad. It is advisable to have the consent letter certified, stamped, or sealed by an official with the authority to administer an oath or solemn declaration so that the validity of the letter will not be questioned."

Tip: Notarize 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. (It has happened to FTF families.)

Regardless of where you travel outside the United States, when you are crossing a border by land, sea or air you will need to have proper identification documents for each traveler in addition to the above letters.  Please see the Department of Homeland Security Site if you are unsure about the type of ID documents you and your family need.

 


Travel Prepared to Avoid Confusion

Thorough documentation is especially important in situations such as travelers or guardians with different last names than each other or the minor. FTF also recommends that birth parents who have different surnames than their child carry a photocopy of the child's birth certificate while traveling, providing legal evidence of "guardianship" in case of trouble.

Same sex couples, and adoptive, divorced or widowed parents should carry certified custody or death certificates, adoption papers, or other proof of sole custody, as well as photo identification for themselves and the child.

Although travel agents and, occasionally, the fine print on a brochure, are supposed to notify families that airlines, cruise lines and bus tours may require proper documentation -- or deny boarding -- the paperwork can, and often does, slip between the cracks.

We find that travel insurance -- trip-protection and health coverage that many travel experts find essential (and many many vacationers are reluctant to purchase) -- is important, too.

For more information, contact your attorney or a professional travel agent. The staff at the FTF office (212/595-6074), while not attorneys, are happy to help answer any questions.

On vacation, travel prepared. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Get Blank Permission to Travel, Minors & Medical Authorization Forms

Remember, having these essential documents for travel with minors could save your next vacation. FTF provides these documents free of charge but asks that you subscribe to our travel alerts e-mail list to keep up to date with ever-changing regulations. You may unsubscribe at any time. We do not sell, barter or trade your personal information. Read Family Travel Forum's Privacy Policy if you have concerns.

Please complete the following form, then check your email inbox or spam filter. You will be asked to confirm your email address, then will be sent a second email with links to download a Permission to Travel and Medical Treatment Authorization Letter you can fill out and use. Keep blank copies to use on future trips.

And most importantly, safe there and safe home!

 


Request Sample Travel & Medical Permission Letters

Already an FTF member or e-news subscriber? Download forms here.

 

* Your Email Address:

* Preferred Format:

auto-detect text HTML

* First Name:

* Last Name:

* Postal Code:

 


 

Comments

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on
J. of PA writes:  Your site is great! But I have a question. I was married and we got divorced and ten years later we got back together (just never remarried) I got pregnant...  Child is now almost five. The birth certificate reads father not listed unknown.  I do have my sons passport (had no problems getting it because father name not on bc) ... Anyway, my question is what do I do for the consent letter? We never went to court or nothing as I work and raise child alone. ... so my question is would I have any issues traveling with my child?  If a father name is not on any documentation do I need a consent form?  Is this a matter that needs to be handled by an attorney? If so, do u recommend a certain one?
 
 
FTF replies:  Thank you for your note.  We are not attorneys at Family Travel Forum, so cannot offer you legal advice. However, in our experience of traveling, we have heard that parents with a child whose birth certificate only has one name on it do not need any further documentation to travel across borders with that minor child. They are considered the sole legal custodians of that child.  In your case, you mention that you were previously divorced from the child's birth father. If that is the case, perhaps you have legal papers showing your divorced status that you could use if any border or customs official questioned this situation. In any case, it is the carrier you choose (airline or cruise company for example) who will require that you provide evidence of guardianship for the child. If you are planning a vacation, perhaps a cruise that will cross borders such as one from Florida that calls at Mexican ports, you can call the cruise line reservations operators, and ask them if your documentation  is enough to board the ship. The  transportation companies should be the ones responsible for examining your travel documents, so if they approve it, you should be fine to travel with him.
 
 
The moderator has shared this email exchange, in part, so that the questions and answers may be of help to others in a similar situation. Thank you.

Thanks for being part of our Family Travel Forum community!

Submitted by Amanda132 on

An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this. There’s no word to describe such a great masterpiece. You made such an interesting piece to read, giving every subject enlightenment for us to gain knowledge and information without any arguments to deal with.

Permission to travel letter will prevent border cancellations, hassles and delays for your child travel because it is a proof that a child has parental or guardian permission to travel. Ideal for children traveling without parents or guardians, or with only one parent or guardian. Thank you for your very useful article.

Submitted by orlando9 on

Yes a well info is taken from this article .. Traveling with family is always a pleasure .. Really amazing creation of GOD .. Find out more about traveling at travel hotel booking online.

Submitted by jango on

Adults roving exterior the U.S. with kids under 18, other than their possess, must have a assent or Consent to journey correspondence from both of the minors' guardians .

Submitted by faizii on
Thanks for sharing. i really appreciate it that you shared with us such a informative post..

 

Submitted by MathieuBCN on

Though it might seem like a hassle, all these requirements for our minors are actually put in place to safeguard their well being. It helps to prevent human trafficking across borders, and help avoid kidnappings.

Submitted by esther91 on

Of hassles, it would be more hassle if you don't have this documents because authorities in the borders or ports might question you for long hours because you are carrying minors.

Yes I agree and speaking of hassles...

Question: Mike M. asks: My daughter is traveling out of the country on vacation with another family. Do you have a sample letter or can you give me an idea of what the letter should say? I am told that the family should have a notarized letter giving them permission to take our daughter with them.

Submitted by rud1 on

We strongly recommend that children travelling abroad carry a consent letter proving they have permission to travel from every person with the legal right to make major decisions on their behalf, if that person is not accompanying the children on the trip.

fran's picture
Submitted by fran on

Thank you so much for making our forthcoming trip so much easier.  It is an emergency trip not a pleasure one and your help at a distressful time is much appreciated.

Sent by reader W.T.

FTFstaff's picture
Submitted by FTFstaff on

Good morning,

I wanted to give you some feedback….  We went to your site to determine what documentation was needed for my grandson to travel with me to Canada, and printed out two forms.  We had one of the forms notarized as suggested, and set out on our trip the next day.  When we arrived at the border, I was told we did not have proper identification!  The page we had been working from on your site did not say anything about a birth certificate or photo ID, which they said I should have had.  PLEASE amend that page to say something like…  “In addition to a birth certificate and photo ID, these other documents are recommended…” 

Thank you so much for your responsiveness.  You may mention this on other pages on your site, but it really should also be on the documentation page.

Janet Gill

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

My family and I are wanting to move to Costa Rica here in the next few years.  The problem is, is that I am a single mother of a little boy of whom I have no idea who the father is.  He is not on the birth certificate, and I don't know his name, if I still can prove I'm the mother can we still leave without any problems?

My family and I are wanting to move to Costa Rica here in the next few years.  The problem is, is that I am a single mother of a little boy of whom I have no idea who the father is.  He is not on the birth certificate, and I don't know his name, if I still can prove I'm the mother can we still leave without any problems?

 

thanks, Ashley

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

Hi Ashley,
 
To travel outside the U.S. with a minor child you will first need to get that child a passport.  If you are applying in the US for a US passport, you will need a notarized permission letter from both guardians (unless you have sole custody papers) to apply for one;  you can read more about passports at this story - http://www.myfamilytravels.com/how/advice/11037-Passport-Adventure-Acquiring-Your-Passport.html
There is also a phone number of the passport help line there to call for more information.
 
If your minor child already has a passport, and you have sole custody of the child, you should be able to travel  without a problem. However, for relocation or immigration for longer stays than a tourist visa allows, you must ask that question at the Costa Rica Embassy / Visa office in Washinton DC.  You can call them at (202) 328-6628 and ask about their immigration procedures.
 
We are not immigation attorneys but we hope this is helpful to you.  Good luck!

Thanks for being part of our Family Travel Forum community!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Thank you for the documents.
 
I have a few questions, and hoping you can help me.  First, some background.  My 3 minor boys live with their mother in Illinois, USA, I live in Switzerland.  We are divorced, she has physical custody of children but we both have joint custody.  They will be visiting first Puerto Rico (US posession) for 2 weeks, and then will visit Switzerland for 2 weeks to visit me.  During the travel from Illinois ISA to Puerto Rico, and then from Puerto Rico to Switzerland, and then from Switzerland back to Illinois, they will be traveling only with their nanny (neither mom or dad will accompany them).  Given this scenario:
 
1) What is the difference between the first letter (Permission to Travel) and third letter (Unaccompanied Minor Travel Authorization) below?  Should both be completed?
2) How do we notarize when both mother and father live in different continents?  Can the same paper be notarized individually in each country?

Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
 
thanks
jose

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

Hello Jose,

First, let me say we are not attorneys, but we can offer some advice based on experience.  The transport companies (airlines in your case) are the ones who really care about these papers because they are the ones that are fined if they transport you and the children without the proper documentation and they are responsible for sending everyone back if the guardian does not have the correct papers.  So, your airlines may be a help in answering your questions.

On our end, we recommend using the first form letter you got; the 3rd form letter is very similar but is usually used by an adult hosting groups, such as teachers taking kids on a teen tour.

We suggest you give your nanny 2 original Permission to Travel Letters,  with the 3 children named, and listed as going to each destination (complete itinerary with dates for Puerto Rico and Switzerland).  She should carry extra photocopies of the Permission Letter signed by both of you, and notarized, as well as copies of your joint custodial papers.  She should also have the Medical Authorization Letter in case the children require any medical care while they're en route.

If you have enough lead time, the best option is to have each parent sign and notarize 2 original Permission to Travel Letters and send them to the other parent for signature.  I don't know the procedure for notarizing a document in Europe but if you both try at the same time, there's a good chance that one of you will succeed at getting both signatures on the same letter.  We've had this question often from military families and they can FedEx the letters to each other.

I hope this information is helpful and I wish your children a safe trip,
Kyle McCarthy

Thanks for being part of our Family Travel Forum community!

Submitted by star09 on

This post was very nicely written, and it also contains a lot of useful facts.I enjoyed your professional manner of writing the post. Thanks, you have made it easy for me to understand.

Regards,
Write My Essay

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Nice post. I learn one thing more difficult on different blogs everyday. It should at all times be stimulating to read content material from different writers and follow just a little something from their store. I’d favor to use some with the content material on my blog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a hyperlink in your net blog. Thanks for sharing.

传奇私服

Thanks for posting this article. I'm definitely frustrated with struggling to search out pertinent and intelligent commentary on this subject. Everybody now goes to the very far extremes to either drive home their viewpoint that either:  everyone else in the planet is wrong, or two that everyone but them does not really understand the situation. Many thanks for your succinct, relevant insight.

Valuable information and excellent design you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up!

thanks for explaining this clearly. it's such a hassle but I am glad to know the reasons behind it and of course want to keep our kids safe from the predators.

Submitted by Lisa Bateman (not verified) on

My husband ex-wife died this morning in Mexico and has their children in Mexico with her. How can we bring them back to the United States? We are desperatly seeking help.

todobigo's picture
Submitted by todobigo on

Lisa - Sorry about your loss. You should call The Office of Children's Issues (888/407-4747) at the State Department in Washington DC to determine next steps.