Learn More About Travel Permission and Travel Consent Letters for Kids
Family Court Judge reviews travel documents and travel consent letters

Adults traveling outside the U.S. with children under 18, other than their own, must have a Permission or minor travel consent letter from both of the minors’ guardians. The travel consent letter also covers a child traveling internationally with only one birth parent, one guardian, grandparents or other adults. This written and notarized Permission to Travel Letter from both birth parents, same sex couples, or legal guardians is required to enter many countries, even on a cruise ship’s shore excursions.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage,” comments a State Department official, “the two parent consent requirement for passport issuance, that all legal parents/guardians of a child, as determined by state law, must consent to passport issuance, remains the same. The validity of consent to travel letters meant for foreign countries or airlines is outside the scope of the State Department.” Learn more in this video:

This requirement for an affidavit for children traveling outside their home country was not invented by the Department of State; in fact, it’s due to the enhanced awareness of children’s rights raised by the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Dept of State explains, “The Convention is a valuable civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of children who have been wrongfully removed from or retained outside their country of habitual residence by another parent or family member. Parents seeking access to children residing in treaty partner countries may also invoke the Convention. The Convention is critically important because it establishes a legal framework between partner countries to resolve parental abduction cases. The Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues serves as the Central Authority for the United States under the Convention.”

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As of May 2017, this treaty created to deter international child abductions is in force between the United States and 76 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. Note that the country of South Africa has recently revised its entry requirements for minors traveling by air, sea or land into and through the country. A full list of Requirements for Minors Travelling Internationally to South Africa can be viewed here.

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 fill in the form to to obtain sample documents you can print out and fill in.

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.

Please fill in this form to request Travel Documents by email, and check your spam filter if you do not receive them within a few minutes. Safe Travels!

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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.”

Canada regulations request that adults entering the country with minors also carry a photocopy of the signature page of the passport belonging to the guardian who signed the permission to travel letter.

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 U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) notes that children under age 18 must carry notarized travel permission letters if they are traveling without their parents.

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. Many destinations now require that all foreign nationals entering their country have a passport that is valid at least six months after the planned date of departure.

If you’re planning a foreign vacation, start the passport 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 and documentation 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 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.”

A March 2019 report by Scott McCartney in the Wall St. Journal noted some other documents which might prove essential, depending on the destination. These include an original, raised stamp birth certificate for each minor in your party, extra passport photos on white backgrounds, plus about US$50 in small bills so that you can purchase entry visas on the spot. Be sure to assign a neighbor or relative back home the responsibility of retrieving some of these documents and sending them, if you need them after departure.

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 from 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 leave Mexico with the child, including the dates of travel, the accompanying adult’s name, contact information, and a notarized signature.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, although the regulations are very specific, immigration officers often ask for a Consent Letter in much broader circumstances. They recommend “all minors traveling without both parents carry a notarized consent letter at all times in the event airline or Mexican immigration officials request one”.

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.

A consular officer at the U.S. Office of Children’s Issues 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.”

A CBP spokesperson recommends that all travelers read the helpful online resource “Know Before You Go.”

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.”

An officer at 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, 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 traveling alone or with one parent carry a travel 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 (+1 212/595-6074), while not attorneys, are happy to help answer any questions.

On vacation, travel prepared. It’s better to be safe than sorry.</p?

And most importantly, safe there and safe home!

Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.

48 Replies to “Permission To Travel and Travel Consent Letters And Why You Need Them”

  • todobigo

    Hello Vinay, If you are the sole legan guardian of a minor child and have a copy of those papers that will travel with the child, you do not need the other guardian/birth parent’s consent. Carry a copy of the papers with you and the child as well as your passports. Please call the airline you are traveling with to make sure they put this information into your passenger record. You may want to check with the U.S. Dept of State regarding any special permission to travel to the Philippines. Please see this page: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Philippines.html
    Safe travels! FTF Editor

  • Veronica Jandog Tamasi

    Do I need the fathers consent to travel to the Philippines from USA? I have awarded sole legal decision making authority and Im the primary custodian and the father has only visitation. I know if I ask him he will not sign any consent form, and we also have domestic violence case and criminal judge put a no contact order for us and I also filed a restraining order against him though it’s expiring soon. Pls help me, thank you. Vinay

  • MFT Admin

    Hello Daniel, thanks for your inquiry. The immigration authorities don’t like open-ended documents. If you believe the travel dates will fall within a six-month period, we suggest that you list the dates that make up six months; ie. June 6-Nov.. 7, 2020. This way, your child and the adult traveling with them will be covered for any dates within that period.

  • Daniel

    Is filling out the Departure and Return dates on the document absolutely necessary upfront? What if we are wanting to fill out the form but the travel dates are unknown currently. We know it will be “within the next 6 months” for example.

  • Caye Matthews

    How long is a consent letter valid? I have generic consent to travel from 3/2019. Dad has been in Wyoming since last Nov.

  • Nina Wilkins

    Really informative article. thanks!

  • Shirley Limke

    “This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Cheers!”

  • Lamar Nickelson

    I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thank you again!

  • Golden Goose Femme

    Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube
    sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.

    I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  • Tommie Todd

    You article definitely has all the information and facts I needed about this subject. I didn’t know who to ask, so thank you kindly…

  • Freddie Defrancisco

    This blog about Learn More About Travel Permission and Travel Consent Letters for Kids, is a very usefull and i will share it!

  • Internet-Gadgets.com

    If you are a divorced parent and are planning on crossing the border with your child, it’s not as simple as packing up a suitcase and heading to the airport. One of the most important things you need to do is to ensure your documents are in order. A letter of consent shows border officials that  ex-partner knows you have the child and gives you permission to travel with the child. While it is not a mandatory document, failing to have it can get you delayed or even denied access in or out of a country.

  • Prosail whitsundays

    thanks for the information

  • Anonymous

    Good morning there, I live in Oakland, California last May I went to my country and legally married with my boyfriend. Now we are spouses but I don’t know how to change my marital status here in California. I am actually pregnant with his baby. Am I going to be able to put my husband on his birth certificate? If so, do I need a consent letter to take the baby with him? I am planning to travel and leave to baby with him for a year so I can bring them with me.

  • Kel

    I’m traveling with my two kids to Florida where I’d meet with my bf and then driving to Disney.

    On the consent letter do I have to include that I’m meeting with my bf then we’re road tripping to Disney from another city within Florida ?

  • todobigo

    We are so sorry to hear about your family’s loss and hope that the safeguards in place can help prevent more tragedies like this one. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Roy Robichaud

    Just a little note as far as the Hague convention act. My sons wife abducted there little boy 3yrs ago and still no help from our state department. With a little research I found there has been 50 children abducted to Brazil and not one has been RETURNED through the state department.

  • MFT Admin

    Jesus, these letters are specified by the U.S. Department of State for entering or leaving the U.S. with minors. If your sister is a Mexican citizen and traveling as a minor only within Mexico, please refer to this website: https://www.gob.mx/inm for more information. Safe travels!

  • Jesus Zavaromo

    My sister that is 12 yrs of age is traveling from Tijuana Mexico to Durunago Mexico with our uncle does she need a letter of any sort ?

  • FTF Staff

    Reader CCL wrote to FTF after receiving her forms: “May I assume that this will work in our case? My granddaughter and I both live in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. We will travel to Minnesota together where she will attend a summer camp while I stay with friends.
    Then we will return together to Mexico. We both have US passports.
    Thank you.
    Colleen C.L.”

    We replied: “Hello Colleen,

    Thank you for your note. We are not attorneys, and in this instance, you are doing the reverse of what most of our readers do. However, the rules still apply and the carrier that is transporting you and your granddaughter to the US would be responsible for checking your papers.

    I would recommend checking with them – airline or cruise company – to be sure. Additionally, since it’s you and your minor, please be sure to get a medical authorization letter (does not have to be notarized) from the legal guardians/health insurance policy holders, plus a photocopy of the insurance card, just in case anything happens to her at camp. Most U.S. camps would require proof of health insurance coverage for each camper as well.

    Please get in touch if you have any other questions and safe travels”

  • todobigo

    Thank you for your note. According to the Government of Canada website: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/minor-children-travelling-canada.html a visitor is considered a minor if under the age of 18, and does require a notarized consent letter from both guardians to enter the country. In your case, you would have to provide this signed and notarized letter to your ex-husband for the trip.

  • todobigo

    S.A. writes: Hello, my children are visiting their dad My ex husband who lives in Washington next week… They are going to drive to Canada for the day… I have a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old… Do I need a certified letter to allow him to take them across the border?

  • MFT Admin

    User JC emailed us to ask: “Thank you so much for sending the forms. I will be taking my 16-year-old niece from California to South America in June. I definitely want to get all the forms taken care of by May. Her parents are going through a difficult divorce and it may be tough to get both of them to use one form and go to the same location together to get it notarized.
    Can I use one form for the mother and one for the father and they can get their own form notarized. “

    • todobigo

      Thank you for your note and congratulations on planning this exciting trip with your niece. We are not attorneys and cannot offer legal advice, but we suggest you contact the transportation carrier for this trip.

      Whether it’s an airline, cruise company, etc that is transporting the minor across international borders, they are responsible for collecting these forms. If, for example, there is an issue and the minor had to be repatriated, that company would bear the cost of transportation and also pay a fine. Since they are responsible, I think it’s best to ask them if they will accept two notarized forms, with the same travel dates and information, for one child on one trip. Make sure they add a note in your travel record so that other company representatives know this was discussed.

      Alternatively, your niece’s parents may know the same notary (often a bank clerk or real estate agent) who may agree to hold onto the form until both parents have come in to sign it. Don’t forget to get a Medical Authorization Letter (one of the sample forms, does not need to be notarized) from the parent holding her health insurance policy in case your niece needs treatment, and safe travels!

  • Husna hanif saleh

    Hello, I am 21 years Old and I want to go outside the country for vacation with my 2 years old sister, I am not her guardian so whats the requirment for travel?? Thanks

    • todobigo

      Although you are an adult sibling, you will need a Permission to Travel Letter notarized by your sister’s birth parents or guardians to enter many countries. It should name you as her guardian for the period of travel. It’s also good to have a Medical Authorization Letter (available at the same email as you request the others) in case she needs care when she is in your care, as her guardian.

      Safe travels!

  • admin

    Member C. Boonsong writes: Dose this FTF form can use travel to Vietnam?

    FTF Reply, posted by Admin:

    Yes, these forms are good if you are traveling between countries with a minor child under 18 years of age. However, Vietnam requires a visa for entry for citizens of many countries.  If you are a U.S. citizen, please check this Vietnam page on the Department of State website for details.

    If you are a citizen of another country, please look online for visa information from your own home foreign office.

  • admin

    We received this note from a user and want to share it so others can learn from it: “I am traveling to SE Asia with my 15 year old son. We adopted him from Russia. Do I need proof of adoption to travel to these countries?

    Our reply: “If the minor child is not traveling with all legal guardians, the missing guardians will have to complete a Permission to Travel Letter for that child, which should be accompanied by adoption papers that explain the child’s legal status.”

    Let us know if you are affected by the same issue, and maybe we can help.

  • admin

    Questions from D.V.: I recently requested travel documents (Permission To Travel Letter, Consent for Minor Travel Form); My question is, can I still use these outlines if my child is traveling by herself (She is 17 years old) without either parents or anyone else? Is it okay to use the templates but leave the spaces provided that asks who will be accompanying them blank? Thank you in advance.

    FTF Answer: I think you may be better off using this other form called Unaccompanied Minor Travel Authorization – and call her a Solo Traveler.  If you have trouble filling it out, you can use the other Consent Letter form and in the spaces that ask who is accompanying her, put in Solo Traveler.  We think  it will be fine, but you can also double-check with her airline.

    • admin

      Question from D.V.: do both parents need to sign at the same time (same paper and date)or can each parent have their own signature notarized on different pieces of paper (and dates)?

      FTF Answer: Different signatures on two forms would probably work, but make sure to give your daughter a copy of her birth certificate proving the names of her legal guardians so those forms are connected to each other. If you have plenty of time, it’s probably best to get one form signed, then mail it to the other birth parent for signature on the same document. Some border officials who don’t speak English may not understand her situation.

  • admin

    C.S. of Washington DC writes:   “I the parent have sole legal and physical custody of my 9 year old, that is how I had my divorce decree worded so maybe I don’t even need this consent form from other parent? Any thoughts?”

    FTF is posting this reply for general interest:

    “We are not attorneys, but in our experience, a sole legal custodian with papers traveling outside the US with a minor child does not need a written letter of consent from anyone else.  However, it is up to the transportation company to accept your papers — whether it’s an airline, bus, train or cruise ship.  
    You would be best to ask them what papers they require and if they say they will accept your sole custody papers with the child’s papers (child must have their own passport), ask them to make a note in your Passenger Record so that there’s no trouble when checking in.”

  • admin
    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.
  • fran

    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

    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

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    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

      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!

  • Anonymous

    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.

    • admin

      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

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! Form was helpful, made it easier. Glad to have found you!


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  • 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.

  • Lisa Bateman

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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! I am looking forward to get some more info from your notes.

  • Valuable information! Looking forward to seeing your notes posted.