Consent letter for children travelling outside Canada
A consent letter demonstrates that a child has permission to travel outside Canada from every parent or guardian who is not accompanying them on the trip.
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When to use a consent letter
A consent letter should be used for all cross-border travel when a child is travelling:
- with only 1 parent or guardian
- in the care of friends or relatives
- with a group, such as a sports, school, musical or religious group
This includes day trips and travel where a child will be with only 1 parent for part of a trip. For example, a child will leave Canada with both parents but will return with only 1 parent.
A consent letter is not a legal requirement in Canada, but it can simplify travel for Canadian children as it may be requested by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country or by Canadian officials or airline agents when re-entering Canada.
The person who is accompanying the child should bring the original signed letter rather than a copy. Officials may be less likely to question the authenticity of an original document.
If you are travelling with a child for whom you have always been the sole parent or guardian, you can bring a document that shows you are the child’s only parent or guardian, such as a copy of a long form birth certificate that identifies you as the only parent.
If the other parent is deceased and you have full custody of your child, you should bring a copy of the death certificate of the deceased parent when accompanying the child on a trip.
The definition of a child varies from country to country, so any child under 19 years old should carry a consent letter.
Using a letter of consent outside Canada
Countries have their own entry and exit requirements for children. The consent letter may not be considered sufficient by a country’s immigration authorities and there is no guarantee that they will recognize it. In some countries, your child may be deemed to be one of its citizens if you or the other parent is a citizen of that country. As a “deemed citizen,” your child may be subject to the same entry and exit requirements as other citizens of that country.
For more information, check the entry and exit requirements in the Travel Advice and Advisories for your destination country or contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the destination country before travelling.
Travel Advice and Advisories
Foreign representatives in Canada
Risk of abduction
If there is a risk that the accompanying parent will not bring your child back to Canada, consult a lawyer and proceed with caution before signing a consent letter.
International child abduction
How to write a consent letter
There are no official guidelines for the content and format of a consent letter, but they usually include:
- the name of the child
- the names and contact information of parents or guardians
- the name and relationship of the person who is accompanying the child
- information on where the child is travelling and the duration of the trip
You may use 1 letter or multiple letters depending on the situation:
- If neither parent is accompanying the child, they can both sign 1 letter or they can each sign a separate letter
- Children from the same family who are travelling together may be listed on 1 letter
- Separate letters are recommended for children who will be travelling separately for part of the trip
- Consult a lawyer when writing a letter without specific dates or for frequent cross-border trips
A sample letter and interactive form are available to guide you in writing a consent letter:
You can change the letter to fit your specific situation, but you should try to include as much detail as possible.
The consent letter should be signed by:
- Parents who are married or in a common law relationship who are not accompanying the child travelling outside Canada
- Separated or divorced parents who are not accompanying the child travelling outside Canada and who have 1 of the following:
- custody of the child
- decision-making responsibility for the child
- guardianship of the child (in Alberta and British Columbia)
A court order or agreement may also specify who does or does not need to sign a consent letter for a child travelling abroad.
If the child is in temporary care: The consent letter should be signed by the appropriate child welfare agency representative granting consent for the child to travel with the accompanying person. If in doubt about who should sign the letter, consult a lawyer.
If one of the parents is deceased: If the child is travelling alone or without the surviving parent, the child should carry a consent letter signed by the surviving parent and a copy of the death certificate of the deceased parent.
Signature of a witness
Any adult may witness the signing of a consent letter. It is strongly recommended that a notary public witness and sign the letter as border officials may be less likely to question its authenticity.
If you are outside of Canada, a consular officer at a Canadian government office may witness the signing of a consent letter (fees apply).
- Children travelling to Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada)
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