Children Travelling Abroad

I have written on this subject before, but I think it is worth revisiting at this time of year.

Christmas is over, the weather in UK is filthy and thoughts in many households are turning to holidays and travel abroad.

In many households money is tight and it is not possible for both parents to travel with their children – but grandparents living abroad always want to see their grandchildren. So the plan has to be that Mother or Father alone will travel with the children. Or sometimes one Grandparent will travel to UK alone, and collect the grandchild and take them back home to meet the wider family in Poland or Brazil or wherever it might be.

The problem for Airlines and Border agencies, is that they have (or think they have) a duty to make sure that a child is not being “kidnapped” – that is, being taken out of England by one parent or a more distant relative, against the wishes of the parents or of the other parent.

Time and again the travelling adult is stopped and detained, perhaps for days at a time, wasting money and time, whilst enquiries are made. This does not only happen at the first outward airport. It can happen at the foreign airport. It can happen at any further linking airports. It can even happen in the UK when the child is being brought back home to England!

It is a perennial source of trouble, if you are wishing to travel overseas with a child but cannot travel with BOTH parents, you would be well advised to take with you several properly Notarised forms of consent – signed by the non-travelling parent/s and notarised.
Because this has been the requirement for several years in most parts of the world including the USA, this is a problem which seems to cause trouble for British people more than for others – we seem to be less aware of the situation for some reason.

Travel agents are, to be fair, increasingly aware of the situation but still people are getting caught out.

Typically the problem arises when a child is taken on holiday by grandparents; but it also happens when one parent only travels with a child, for whatever reason. The assumption is, “We have our passports – the child has a passport – what is the problem?”

Actually, the problem is – that you might travel thousands of miles, and get turned back or detained at the border!

Foreign Governments do not wish to be seen to have assisted in child abduction of any kind whether by parents or by anyone. So when a child travels without both parents, there is the suspicion in the Government mind, of the possibility that the journey is unknown to the non-travelling parent – who would not have given consent.

Too many people pass though the airports for any country to be certain that there is no court order in force prohibiting travel – so the safest answer for immigration authorities often is – “No consent – No entry.”

The lack of the notarised form can also give rise to difficulty in the event that the child becomes ill or has an accident. A Hospital for example might not operate on a child unless both parents are present to consent, or have previously signed a Notarial form to say that the grandparents who are travelling with the child can make those decisions.
Many countries publish the text of the required letter of consent on the websites of their border control agencies and several others do not. If there is no specified text then I can draft a suitable wording for you of course.

Also do note that, for many jurisdictions, the consent document once notarised should be further “legalised” or “Authenticated” with either the Foreign Office Apostille or the Consular stamp of the Country concerned – or sometimes both of those. See my previous blog called “Glossary” for a more detailed explanation.

Be aware also that it is not only, or even mainly, national governments and immigration agencies which are requiring such consents. Increasingly individual airlines will apply their own rules. For this reason I would recommend that when you make the forms of consent, you obtain several originals at the same time.

It is not unknown, and it is usual in Brazil in particular, for an airline to require a letter on an internal flight in spite of the fact that such a form was previously provided when entry to Brazil was first made. Again, a further form may be demanded when you leave.
On a more trivial level I have seen cruise ships require that the responsible adult has the permission of the parent to agree to the child using the swimming pool, or trampoline, or making visits in the ports to which the ship travels.

I have recently seen in UK newspapers travel advice to the effect that “A notarised consent will be needed, so go and see your solicitor now” Well if you get your spectacles prescribed by your greengrocer, fair enough – otherwise please remember – Some Notaries are also Solicitors, but very few Solicitors are also Notaries.

Outside of the British Isles, the role of a solicitor is extremely limited, and it is the certificate of a NOTARY PUBLIC which will be required from you.

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