Passports and Consent to Child Travel During Divorce
The Government of Canada strongly recommends that even after a valid Passport has been issued, any time there are plans made by one parent for a child to travel outside Canada, whether accompanied by that parent, alone, or with another person (e.g. a relative or family friend or in a group), a Letter of Consent should be obtained from the other parent. For these purposes, a “child” is anyone under the age of majority.
While strictly speaking it is not mandatory, the Letter of Consent serves as evidence that the child has the consent of both parents to travel. It is signed primarily by the individual(s) with the legal right to make major decisions for the child (i.e. the custodial parent or guardian); however, even if it is a parent with sole custody who is travelling with the child, to be on the safe side it is recommended that Letter of Consent be filled out by any parent or other individual with access rights.
The Letter of Consent can be presented upon demand by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country, or by Canadian immigration officials upon the child’s return. While having a Letter of Consent handy does not guarantee that there will be no difficulties crossing a border, it will likely make the process much faster and easier.
- Children need Canadian passport
- All Canadians entering the U.S. by air – including children whether accompanied by a parent or not – must have a valid Canadian passport. For these purposes, a “child” is anyone aged three to 16, while an “infant” is anyone under age three.
- As with passports for adults, any child or infant who is a Canadian citizen is eligible to apply; once issued, the passport is good for five years for children, and three years for infants.
- Children need their own passports to travel abroad (i.e. non-U.S. destinations), even if accompanied by a parent.
- Children who are not travelling with both parents should carry a “Letter of Consent” which states that both parents agree to the child travelling.
Passport photos for child applications must show the child’s head and shoulders, and must be taken by a professional photographer.
In situations involving infants who need to be held, the parents’ hands and arms may not show in the photo. Passport Canada is not strict as to an infant’s facial expression on a passport photo, i.e. the infant’s mouth may be open or closed.
- Special Cases
Strictly speaking, children under the age of 15 years are permitted to cross the U.S. border (whether by land or water) without a passport, but must show proof of citizenship (i.e. an original or copy of a Birth Certificate, or an original Canadian citizenship card). However, children who travel by air must show a passport.
Also, Canadian citizens 18 years of age and under who are travelling with a school or other organized group, under adult supervision and with parental/guardian consent may also present proof of citizenship alone.
- Children of separated parents
As a means of preventing child abduction in situations of family discord, the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Customs and Border Protection Office have certain additional requirements in connection with travel by children of separated parents, when in the company of only one of those parents.
Specifically, the parent with whom the child travels must provide a Notarized Letter of Permission, which is evidence of his or her entitlement to travel with the child. This letter must include complete contact information for all parents or legal guardians.
- Renewing Passports
A child’s passport may be renewed up to 12 months before it expires. Although there is a simplified renewal process for passports issued to adults, it does not apply to passports for children.
If the child’s current passport expires more than 12 months from the date that the application is being made, a written explanation for the early renewal application must be provided.
The application process and the renewal process take time, and prudent parents must plan accordingly, so that the child’s passport is in hand long before the anticipated trip departure date.