If you are traveling with children outside Canada, you need to get a few things ready first. Here are a few things to organize (like a travel consent letter) before you get on that plane.

A travel consent letter is a letter from any parent who is not traveling with their child. It tells the world that the child has the right to travel away from their parent.

Consent letters are not a legal requirement. However, immigration authorities, airline agents and other Canadian officials can ask to see them. It is up to the discretion of these individuals if they want to insist on seeing a consent letter.

What should it contain?

There is no set form for a consent letter, but a good consent letter will:

  • have information about the child who is traveling (birthdate, full legal names, passport information)
  • identify the person traveling with the child
  • give details about the trip (start and end dates, locations)
  • include contact information for the parent who is not traveling with the child

The Government of Canada has a sample consent letter which is a good starting point. Make sure to read all of the information the Government of Canada has on their site about traveling with children.

Consent letters aren’t a legal requirement. As a result, the authorities might not ask for one on any given trip. That doesn’t mean you should ignore them. You don’t want to have to prove that you have the right to travel with a child. Having a consent letter addresses this issue.

Does it need to be notarized?

A consent letter doesn’t have to be notarized to make it legally valid. However, the folks who deal with these letters won’t take them seriously unless they are notarized.

Some tips for your visit to the notary:

  • the person signing must personally show up in front of the notary
  • they must have two pieces of current, government-issued ID
  • the notary will want to see separated spouses alone, to make sure that they are not being coerced into signing a travel letter
  • fill out the consent letter completely before you go to the notary; you can’t change a document once it has been notarized
  • each travel letter must be on a trip-by-trip basis – the notary will not sign a universal travel letter that says “I give permission for [name] to take [my child] out of the country any time, for as long as they want”

Long-Form Birth Certificate

Short form birth certificates don’t identify the names of parents. Long-form birth certificates do contain this information, however.

As a result, a long-form birth certificate is an important document to send with your child. This lets the authorities who are reviewing your consent letter know who might have custodial rights.

For example, imagine your child’s long-form birth certificate says that her father is Arnold Harold Cooper. The authorities will be looking for a consent letter signed by Arnold Harold Cooper.

If you don’t have a long-form birth certificate, the authorities will have no way of knowing who might have custodial rights for the child. Having confused authorities is never a good situation.

A consent letter may not be necessary if the long-form birth certificate only has one parent’s name on it.

Identification and other Documentation

Make sure that anyone traveling with your child takes current, government-issued identification for themselves, as well as for the traveling child.

Make sure to take copies of the following information and identification with your child when traveling:

  • a list of vaccinations your child has taken
  • any separation agreement, parenting agreement or other family law agreement setting out who has custodial rights for the traveling child
  • a death certificate for a parent who has passed away
  • name change documentation for a child who has undergone a name change
  • documentation explaining any differences between the presentation gender of a child and the gender as set out on their legal documentation

Any parent not traveling with the child should also keep copies of all of this documentation.

The authorities may wish to speak with the non-traveling parent about these documents. It will make the non-traveling parent’s life much easier if they have copies of everything.

Medication List and Prescriptions

If your child requires medications, take a list of their medications, and copies of the prescriptions for those medications.

If you don’t have copies of the prescriptions for those medications, ask your pharmacist or doctor to provide you with a list.

Medications can be incredibly expensive, so only take the specific medications your child will actually need.

For example, imagine your child takes a medication every day. You filled a prescription for 3 months but you are only traveling for 2 weeks. Just take enough medication for 3 weeks (your travel time and a buffer, in case of emergencies).

That way you won’t lose everything if the medications are lost or seized.

Contact us when it’s time to get your travel consent letter notarized.

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