Documentation for International Travel With Kids

With summer vacation season coming on, many of you will be taking grandchildren, nieces, nephews and perhaps some of their friends along with you to foreign countries. BUT BE WARNED: you need proper documentation and travel authorization from the lawful parents or guardians, even for the United States.

Border agents in virtually all countries around the globe are cracking down on unauthorized cross-border travel involving minors—even if those minors are part of your family and have your own name. It’s all part of a worldwide effort to curb child abductions, estranged-parent “kidnappings”, and other illegal forms of exploitation.

What do you need?

First of all, the basics. You need a passport of your own. Anyone who anticipates foreign travel (and that includes a short hop to an adjacent country) and does not have a passport in this day and age needs to get real. There is no excuse. That’s just sheer negligence.

Next, the kids need their own passports in their own names: no matter what their age. It’s their right, and it’s up to you and/or their parents to fulfill that responsibility. They’ll have to get them sooner or later. It’s not as difficult as you may think. And a passport is invaluable proof of citizenship and identity.

Then you need verifiable, notarized letters from the children’s parents and/or their legal guardians that you have the authority to take them out of the country, where you are going, how long you will be staying and who will responsible for them. If the parents are separated or divorced, have the authorization signed by the custodial parent and, if possible, get the signature of the non-custodial parent as well. This may be a little tricky if the parents are not talking to each other, but make the point that it’s the kids’ welfare and convenience that you’re talking about, not theirs.

In case you are a non-custodial parent wanting to take your child out of the country, you will definitely need to have your ex—if he or she is the legal custodial parent– sign the authorization. This is critical. We have seen some very messy situations of parental “kidnapping” or abduction recently and border agents don’t want to get caught in the middle. If this is your situation, expect to be challenged if you don’t have the right paperwork. And even if you are the custodial parent, having the authorization of the other parent is irrefutable sound backup.

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