Sunday, March 13, 2011

Traveling with kids as a solo parent: consent letters & other important papers to bring

When you're traveling with your children outside of your home country, you should of course always bring their passports, or any other identification that's required for travel.

If you're traveling with your children and you are the only parent accompanying them, even if you and the other parent are married, it is also a good idea to bring something called a "consent letter".

What is a consent letter?
A consent letter basically states that the other parent is ok with you bringing the children abroad for a specified time, and it can be a very important paper to have with you. Parents abducting their own children and taking them to other countries, without the consent of the other parent, is unfortunately something that does happen.

Border guards and immigration officials are aware of this of course, and if they see you crossing an international border with your children and no other parent in sight, they might very well ask for documentation to prove that you are allowed to have the children with you.

On my trip last summer I was asked for a consent letter when I returned to Canada from Sweden with the kids. I did have a letter with me, and of course my husband was also in the airport terminal to pick me up, but it sure made things easier that I did have that simple piece of paper.

Sample consent letters
Examples of what documents like this should look like can be found all over the Internet. One example is this government of Canada site. Here is a .pdf file of their sample consent-letter.

If you want to go very basic you could just fill in the information, print out the document and bring it with you. For increased "believability" you could also have the letter notarized letter of consent drawn up. To quote the link above:
We advise you to have the consent letter certified, stamped or sealed by an official who has the authority to administer an oath or solemn declaration (i.e., a commissioner for oaths, notary public, lawyer, etc.) so that the validity of the letter will not be questioned.

If you are a divorced parent, then any custody agreements and a consent letter from the other parent might also be required, and could save you a lot of trouble in case any immigration officials do ask you if you are allowed to travel with your children.

If your child is adopted, it can also be a good idea to bring the documents pertaining to the adoption: check with the authorities in your home-country and the country you're traveling to.

And you don't just need these documents if you're traveling by air. A few years ago, my uncle (who was visiting from Sweden) who was driving across the border between Canada and the US with his tween-aged son, was asked if the mother of the child had consented to the trip.

He did not have a consent letter with him (and was quite taken aback that one might be needed), and eventually the border guard did let him cross, but having a consent letter would certainly have made that process go faster.

As you can see from the examples above, a consent letter should contain some specific information:
  • it should be signed by, and have contact information for, any parents or legal guardians of the child/ren
  • it should have the passport numbers of the child/ren and of the person traveling with them
  • it should also, if possible, specify where you are traveling with the child and for how long.
It can feel kind of weird to have a paper drawn up saying it's OK for you to travel with your own children, but it really can save you a lot of hassle and some serious questioning by immigration officials and border guards. And believe me, you can be 100% innocent of anything at all, and still get a good grilling at a border crossing!


  1. My ex husband refused to sign consent letter. I left him when my son was 7 weeks old with no child support. I already booked our ticket to see my family back home . Is there any lawyer I can go to get letter stating that I am coming back. I own property here and have investment and fore sure I am coming back. I need help.

    1. I would see a lawyer about this situation, or maybe get advice from a family counsellor of some kind that is familiar with the laws where you love. I do know this can be a very sensitive issue because of so many high-profile cases where one parent has taken a child away from the other parent. I sincerely hope you can get some advice and resolve the situation!


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