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How to Travel with Minor Children

Last revision:
Last revision: September 12, 2019
Last revision:
Category: Marriage, Divorce and Family

When travelling with minor children (children under the age of 18), it is essential to properly plan ahead in order to ensure that the trip runs smoothly. One of the things to for which to plan is to ensure that a minor child or the adult traveling with a minor child has in his or her possession the documents that may be required by the relevant authorities.


Travelling within Canada

In Canada, although minor under the age of 18 years are not required to present a piece of identification, it is preferable that they carry with them the original copy of their birth certificate or a piece of identification that is not delivered by the government (e.g. a student card).


Travelling outside of Canada

Minor children who are travelling with adults other than their parents or legal guardians may be submitted to closer examination by Canada Border Services Agency or the border services of any other country.

A minor child travelling alone, travelling with only one of his or her parents or travelling with an adult who is neither a parent or a legal guardian may be refused entry if the border services agents are not convinced that the parents or legal guardians have authorized his or her stay.

Whether a child is travelling alone or accompanied, it is therefore preferable for the minor child to carry with her or him the following documentation:

  • his or her passport;
  • documentation confirming his or her identity (e.g. birth certification or citizenship card); and
  • a Travel Consent Letter.

If the child is travelling with an adult, it is preferable that the adult has in his or her possession any relevant legal documentation such as divorce papers, any court order relating to the child's custody or a death certificate.

If the age of majority is 18 or 19 in Canadian provinces and territories, it may be different in the countries that the child will be visiting. It is preferable to check the age of majority before travelling to ensure that the child has the necessary documents.

Agents of border services are particularly careful when it comes to minor children and may verify if a child is listing as missing or is a runaway. In the course of their official duties and responsibilities, agents of border services may interrogate an adult accompanying a minor child or the minor child who is travelling alone. It is therefore essential for an adult traveling with a minor child or for a minor child travelling alone to have in their possession the documents that may be required by the agents of border services.

It is possible that the agents of the border services will not ask to see the document when the child enters the countries to which he or she is travelling. However, it is still preferable to carry the documents that may be required in the event the agents of the border services ask to see them.

The Travel Consent Letter is a document that allows one or two parents to authorize their child to travel alone or accompanied by an adult. The Travel Consent Letter should include the following information:

  • first and last names of the child;
  • date of birth of the child;
  • passport number and issuing authority, if the child is travelling outside of Canada;
  • places the child will visit during the trip (cities and countries);
  • date of the trip;
  • first and last names of each parent or legal guardian signing the letter;
  • first and last names of the adult accompanying the child, if applicable.

According to the situation, the letter will need to be signed by one or both parents (as described below).


Minor child traveling with one parent

It is preferable to obtain a Travel Consent Letter signed by the parent not travelling with the child as well as a copy of the passport or the national identification card of the parent not travelling with the child. The letter should include the address and telephone number of the parent who is not travelling with the child.


If the parents are separated or divorced and the parents share child custody

The Travel Consent Letter must be signed by the parent not travelling with the child who has shared custody.

It is preferable that the parent travelling with the child also carry a copy of the custody order.


If the parent are separated or divorced and one parent has exclusive custody

If the parent travelling with the child is the one who does not have exclusive custody, it is preferable that the parent travelling with the child carries a copy of the custody order as well as the Travel Consent Letter. The letter may only bear the signature of the parent who has exclusive custody.

If the parent travelling with the child is the one who has exclusive custody, the Travel Consent Letter is not required but it is preferable for the parent to carry a copy of the custody order.


If one of the parents is deceased

It is preferable for the parent travelling with the child to carry a copy of the death certificate.

If only one of two adoptive parents is travelling with the child, the Travel Consent Letter should bear the signature of the other parent.

If only one of two legal guardians is travelling with the child, the Travel Consent Letter should bear the signature of the other legal guardian.

If the child has only one adoptive parent or only one legal guardian, a Travel Consent Letter is not required.

In all these situations, it is preferable for the adoptive parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to carry on them a copy of the adoption documents or guardianship documents, including any related court order.

The adult travelling with the child who is neither a parent or a legal guardian should carry a Travel Consent Letter signed by both parents or both legal guardians, except for the following situations, where a Travel Consent Letter may be signed by only one parent or legal guardian:

  • one of the parents is deceased;
  • one of the parents has exclusive custody;
  • the child has only one legal guardian.


Minor child travelling alone

It is preferable for the child to carry a Travel Consent Letter signed by both parents or legal guardians, except for the following situations, where a Travel Consent Letter may be signed by only one parent or legal guardian:

  • one of the parents is deceased;
  • one of the parents has exclusive custody;
  • the child has only one legal guardian.


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