*Updated April 2015
People under the age of 18 or 19, depending on their province or territory of residence, are considered children. A consent letter for children travelling abroad is not mandatory, though it is strongly recommended if they’re travelling alone, with only one parent/guardian, with friends or relatives, or with a group. These efforts are put in place to ensure a child’s safety.
A consent letter for children travelling abroad can help simplify the travel process. It demonstrates that the child has permission from guardians that are not accompanying them on the trip. It is recommended whether or not the parents are separated or married, as long as both of them are not present. In the event that the child is travelling with neither parent (with a friend or other family members), then both parents should consent.
The letter may be signed by those with custody or guardian rights and/or the non-accompanying parent. It is a good idea to have for all cross-border travel, including day trips. The letter can be requested by immigration authorities when children are entering or leaving a country. If you don’t have one, it can cause delays or refusal of entry.
The Government of Canada website provides consent letter templates that you can customize. There are no specific guidelines outlined but it is suggested parents or guardians provide as much detail as possible.
Below are some guidelines from the Government of Canada that may be applicable to different family circumstances:
- A consent letter is not necessary from a parent who has been denied access rights
- Even if a parent has sole custody, it is advised that a letter be obtained from another parent who has access (visitation) rights
- If one parent is travelling alone and the other parent has passed away, bring the death certificate of the deceased parent
- Bring any supporting documentation that may be applicable, for example, a copy of the court order stating that the other parent’s consent is not needed or that the accompanying person is the child’s lawful guardian
You may want to consult with a lawyer about any legal issues that may apply to your family’s specific case.
Anyone can sign as the witness, but it’s recommended that an official who has the authority to administer an oath sign so that border officials are less likely to question its validity. In some cases, professionals like doctors, police officers, accountants, and bankers have the legal ability to certify documents. Provincial and territorial laws determine who has this authorization.
On the other hand, a consent letter for children travelling abroad does not guarantee that they will have no problem entering or leaving a country. Each country has their own entry and exit requirements. For example, according to the Government of Canada website, “a child with Costa Rican-Canadian citizenship requires a legally certified consent letter, translated into Spanish and signed by one or both parents, plus a special permit issued by Costa Rican authorities, in order to depart from Costa Rica.”
It is also a good idea to consult the airline, bus or train the child will be travelling on to check its policies. You may or may not be asked to present a letter, but it’s better to be on the safe side and make the travel process go as smoothly as possible!
For more information about children and travel, visit: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children/children-travel