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Crossing Borders With Kids: What You Need To Know

(April 2000)

Thinking of taking the kids on a solo jaunt? You might be surprised to know that you canít just jet off with them alone without the proper documentation. Children under the age of 18 leaving the U.S. and traveling with grandparents, other relatives, or only one parent or guardian must have written and notarized permission from both birth parents or legal guardians to enter many countries.

Due to the rising number of child abductions, children involved in child custody disputes, and runaways, border officials the world over are paying close attention to solo parents or other relatives traveling with minors. Adults traveling with children should be aware of this regulation and arrive prepared with a "Permission to Travel" letter.

A "Permission to Travel" letter should contain the following:

∑ Written permission from the other parent/guardian to enter the country with the child
∑ Dates of travel
∑ Accompanying adult's name
∑ Airline and flight numbers, if applicable
∑ Contact information
∑ Notarized signature

If you are traveling to a country that requires this documentation, the Immigration Naturalization Service (INS) is enforcing this rule through the airlines and border patrol. Airline agents will request the notarized documentation at the gate before issuing boarding passes. If you are crossing a border by car, border patrol agents will ask for this documentation as well.

When planning your itinerary, contact the tourist offices or embassies of all the countries you will be visiting and learn all the rules and regulations that apply to those particular countries. Currently, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Lebanon, and Australia are examples of countries that require this type of documentation.

So, before you set off on your trip, make sure you have the following:

∑ Proper IDs/Passports for you and the child/children

∑ If you are not the custody parent or guardian, be sure to bring a "Permission to Travel" letter with you. Have as much information about the trip as possible included in this document, plus contact information for the custody parent or guardian.

∑ If you are the custody parent or guardian, have copies of relevant papers with you. All single parents are suspect.

Foreign countries change their rules and regulations often. Be sure to get the most up-to-date information from the U.S. State Department's Travel Warnings & Consular Information site at

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