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Travel with kids documentation information:

Travel with kids documentation information

Adults that are traveling outside the U.S. with kids age 18 or under other than their own, must have a motorized Permission or Consent to Travel Letter from both of the minors’ guardians in order to leave and return to the U.S.

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 U.S. and Canadian authorities on your return to the U.S. or  Canada with the child.”

Travel Documents Help Protect 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 their own passport and appear in person to apply for one. These very strictly enforced guidelines to get passports for a minor to required 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 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 your foreign vacation, start this process early. United States’ security and border regulations change frequently. The increased number of passport applications means 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. 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.”

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.”

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 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 liveaboard cruise travel as well.

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.

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. We  also recommend 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.

travel insurance- trip-protection that we feel is essential (and many  vacationers are reluctant to purchase) – is a must to get!

For more information, contact your attorney or a professional travel agent. 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.

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