Required documentation for traveling abroad with minors: what you need to know

Family waiting at the international airport terminalInternational travel is supposed to be an adventure and most people can prepare for the basics, but for parents traveling alone with a child, it can quickly become a nightmare unless proper documentation is gathered and prepared at the beginning of the trip due to new requirements to cross international borders with a minor.

Increased Vigilance Provides More Protection

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a rise in the number of child abductions associated with contested custody cases, along with growing international concern about the potential for children traveling under suspicious circumstances to become the victims of sex traffickers, has heightened the need for vigilance among international authorities. Therefore, the agency recommends that whenever only one parent is venturing across the border with a minor, he or she should carry a notarized document showing the other parent’s acknowledgement and permission for the trip to take place.

Traveling With Adopted Children

For parents traveling with an adopted child under the age of 15, further documentation is required, the exact nature of which varies depending on the mode of travel.

For those traveling by land or sea, parents must be prepared to provide a U.S. birth certificate, a report from a U.S. consulate recording a birth overseas, papers proving the child is a naturalized citizen, or other official documentation of citizenship. Additionally, adoptive parents must also have an official record of the adoption available or carry a copy of the court order that established their guardianship or custody over the minor.

For air travel with an adopted child, the same requirements for an adoption decree or court order apply, but the child must also have either a valid U.S. Passport or a foreign passport and Lawful Permanent Resident Card.

Identity Theft Vulnerability

Use caution when filling out, processing and carrying paperwork as children are increasingly popular targets for identity theft according to Lifelock, a company that specializes in identity theft protection services. Lifelock for AOL members is, incidentally, a free part of your service. For non-AOL members, services start at $10 per month.

Obtaining Proper Documentation

Keep in mind that all minors—even infants—must have a passport to travel across international borders by plane. When applying for this document, anyone under the age of 16 must appear personally at the point of request, according to the U.S. Department of State. The reason for this requirement is that it allows the State Department an opportunity to provide parents concerned about abduction with another layer of protection known as the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. The program is voluntary, and allows parents of minors under 18 to request that the government alert them if their child files for travel documents. If they did not authorize the passport application, parents can then alert the authorities, allowing them to flag the passport as suspicious.

In some circumstances, there may be a legitimate reason for a minor to travel internationally without a parent or guardian accompanying them. In such cases, a notarized letter from both parents is required. Whenever a minor is traveling solo to another country, the family should consider it their obligation to contact the destination country’s U.S. embassy to learn about regulations governing the admission of unaccompanied minors inside its borders.

Those regulations can vary widely by nation, as can the laws governing travel with a single parent or guardian. In fact, U.S. law is rather relaxed in comparison with nations such as Canada, which openly declares that children traveling with those other than their parents will receive more scrutiny upon entry. For this reason, it’s always best for travelers to research all the rules before getting their trip underway.

No doubt, the need to prepare proper documentation for traveling alone with children can feel burdensome when you would rather be reading up on the history and culture of your destination or thinking through the items you want to take. At times like this, always remember, these regulations are in place to protect those who are least able to protect themselves.

Did you ever have a problem traveling internationally with a minor? Please tell us about it in the comments!

This entry was posted in Facts & Figures and tagged , , , by Tanya. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tanya

Tanya is the project manager for Pic4Pass, with over 16 years experience in project management, customer service and marketing for high tech companies. An avid traveler who grew up in a bilingual German-American household, several years ago she, her husband and cat left the US for a chance to work in Austria. She enjoys traveling throughout Europe as well as exploring her adopted home town of Vienna. And she loves living without a car or TV.

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