There are times that you want or need to travel alone with your children without their other parent. I’m frequently asked what documentation to bring if you travel alone with your children. While the answer does change based on where you are going, this is a good place to start. Please remember that this is not official immigration or border control advice and is based on my own experience.
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Basic documentation if you travel alone with children
In addition to your child’s passport, you should bring his or her birth certificate to prove that you are a child’s parent and establish the relationship. This is rarely asked if you share the same last name as your child and the other parent. I also carry my marriage certificate whenever we travel. I should add that many of these rules are antiquated and rely on an immigration officer’s (often biased) judgment.
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Documentation from the other parent if you travel alone with children
If you have a custody agreement with your child’s parent, then bring a copy of the court order or the agreement that outlines that you have the right to bring the child abroad and whether the parent needs consent.
If you do not have a custody agreement or live with your child’s parent, then a letter from the parent with a photograph of his or her passport and signed should be sufficient for border control. To make it legal, you can have the letter notarized or signed by a solicitor, but we haven’t done this. We add a phone number and contact details so that the border control agent could reach my partner if they wanted to check on things. I travel with my children’s “red book” (a book of vaccinations in the UK) and imagine this will continue when they have a vaccine against COVID-19.
We have never been asked for a letter or a birth certificate. However, our privilege and having the same name are factors in how we are treated at immigration and I’m always prepared. We bring originals with us of marriage certificate and birth certificates because we have several copies but use a copy of my husband’s passport that he signs.
The letter template if you travel alone with children
I am the father of Norwegian/British/US citizens Child 1 (DOB) and Child 2 (DOB). Child 1 and Child 2 are travelling with their mother, my
wife, Kathleen Porter Kristiansen (DOB), who is both a US and British citizen.
The three of them are travelling together from London to Destination on the Flight number on DATE, before returning to London, UK overnight on the Flight number on DATE.
You may reach me on (mobile) and (email) if you have any questions. Our address is xxx London, England. I consent to her travel overseas with our children.
Check the country’s border control guidelines
There could be particular rules for the country that you are visiting or stopping over or if you’re doing stop-overs in other countries, so always check all country’s entry requirements before departing. Also, once I didn’t have the friend’s address in Nassau, Bahamas, because I knew he was picking me up from the airport. This landed us in a short detention in NAS. I’ve also accidentally brought fruit into the USA, which landed me in MIA detention alone with a baby and in a viral story. As easy as it can be to lose your wits when traveling alone with children, remember the basics.
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As a former lawyer (although this is not legal advice), I tend to think the more documentation, the better. Remember to establish your relationship with your children, show that you have the right to travel with them or consent to do so, and then enjoy your trip.
Featured photograph by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen