Recommended consent letter for children travelling abroad – FAQ
The following Questions and Answers supplement the Recommended consent letter for children travelling abroad.
For more information about travelling with children, consult the Children and travel page, the publication Travelling With Children, or seek advice from a lawyer. If you need help finding legal services in your province or territory, contact a lawyer referral service.
For additional information about entry and exit requirements for Canadian children travelling alone, with only one parent or with another accompanying person, see our country-specific travel advice and advisories or contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the destination country.
Note that all references to parents on this page apply also to legal guardians.
Note that Global Affairs Canada cannot provide you with advice about the Consent Letter for Children Travelling Abroad beyond what is offered on this website.
- What is the purpose of a consent letter?
A consent letter demonstrates that children who travel alone, with only one parent/guardian, friends, relatives or a group (e.g. sports, school, musical, religious) have permission to travel abroad from every parent (or guardian) who is not accompanying them on the trip.
- Is a consent letter mandatory?
There is no Canadian legal requirement for children to carry a consent letter. However, a consent letter may be requested by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country, airline agents or Canadian officials when re-entering Canada. Failure to produce a letter upon request may result in delays or refusal to enter or exit a country.
- If the accompanying parent has full/sole custody of the child, is it still advisable to obtain a consent letter signed by a non-accompanying parent who only has access rights?
We recommend that even a parent who has full/sole custody obtain a consent letter from another parent who has access rights (also called visitation rights).
- What information should a consent letter contain?
There are no official guidelines for the content and format of a consent letter. For your convenience, we offer a sample consent letter on our website, which may be modified to fit your specific situation. You may also use our interactive form, which allows you to leave out information that is not available or applicable. Nevertheless, we recommend including as much detail as possible.
- Who should sign the consent letter?
The consent letter should be signed by parents who are not accompanying the child on a trip, including:
- One or both parents who are married or in a common-law relationship and live together with the child. Both parents usually have custody rights over the child. In some provinces or territories, other terms (e.g. guardianship rights or parental authority) may be used.
- One or both parents who are separated, divorced or do not live together. In some situations, parents have “joint custody” or “joint guardianship” of a child, meaning that they make important decisions about the child together. In other situations, one parent has “sole custody” and is responsible for making important decisions for the child, while the other parent has “access rights.” We recommend that the letter be signed by all parents who are not travelling with the child, whether they have custody or access rights.
- One or more individuals (other than parents) or an organization with guardianship rights and responsibility for the care of the child.
- In Quebec, one or both parents with parental authority over the child. Whether the parents are married, in a civil or de facto union, separated or divorced, they have rights and duties relating to the child, unless a court order states otherwise.
Court orders or agreements sometimes specify who is or is not required to sign a consent letter for children travelling abroad. If in doubt about who should sign the letter, consult with a lawyer.
- Up to what age should Canadian children carry a consent letter when travelling abroad?
We recommend that anyone who is under the age of majority (under 18 or 19, depending on the province or territory of residence) carry a consent letter.
- Who can witness the signing of a consent letter?
The signing of the letter may be witnessed by anyone who has attained the age of majority (18 or 19, depending on the province or territory of residence). However, we strongly recommend having the letter witnessed by a notary public, as border officials will be less likely to question the authenticity of the letter.
Outside of Canada, the signing of a consent letter may be witnessed by anyone who has attained the age of majority, including a consular officer at any Canadian government office abroad (fees apply).
- Is it mandatory to have the consent letter witnessed by a notary?
There is no Canadian requirement to have the consent letter witnessed by a notary public. However we strongly recommend doing so, as border officials will be less likely to question the authenticity of the letter.
- If the parents are together (either married or in a common-law relationship), but only one parent travels with the child, is a consent letter still recommended?
If the child is not accompanied by both parents, we recommend carrying a consent letter signed by the non-accompanying parent, regardless of the parents’ marital status (single, married, common-law, separated, divorced or never married).
- Is a consent letter still recommended if a child will be accompanied by both parents for part of a trip, but alone or with only one parent for another part of the trip?
We recommend that a child who is travelling with only one parent for even a small portion of a trip (e.g. when returning to Canada with only one parent) carry a consent letter signed by the non-accompanying parent.
For example, if a child travels to the United States with both parents, but then the mother stays in the United States while the father brings the child back to Canada, the mother may sign a consent letter stating that the child has permission to travel back to Canada with the father.
- If neither parent is accompanying the child, should they each sign separate consent letters, or can they provide a single letter with both of their signatures?
Either separate letters or a single letter may be acceptable. However, if both parents choose to sign separate consent letters, we strongly recommend that both letters be witnessed by a notary public.
- If children from the same family travel together without one or both parents, should they each carry separate letters or one letter listing all of the children?
Either separate letters or a single letter may be acceptable. However, if the children will not be together for the entire trip (e.g. when returning to Canada), we recommend that they carry separate letters.
We also strongly recommend that the letters be witnessed by a notary public.
- If a child is travelling with several adults, none of whom are the child’s parents (e.g. relatives, group leaders, parents of a friend), should they all be identified as accompanying persons on the consent letter?
It is not necessary for the letter to identify all adults as accompanying persons. Instead, we recommend that the letter identify one accompanying person, such as a grandparent or group leader, subject to that individual’s consent.
- Can a parent fax or email a scanned copy of the letter to the accompanying person?
Although there is no Canadian legal requirement for children to carry a consent letter, we recommend bringing the original letter, as border officials will be less likely to question its authenticity.
- Is a consent letter recommended even for a day trip?
A consent letter is recommended for all cross-border travel, even for a day trip, if the child will be travelling alone, with only one parent, with friends or relatives or with a youth group. The sample consent letter or interactive form can be used to create a suitable letter.
- If one parent is deceased, what document should a child carry when travelling abroad?
A child accompanied by a surviving parent who has full custody may carry a copy of the death certificate of the deceased parent. A child travelling without the surviving parent may carry a consent letter signed by that parent and a copy of the death certificate of the deceased parent.
- If a Canadian child who holds another citizenship travels to the other country of citizenship without one or both parents, will the consent letter offered on this website be accepted by that country’s immigration authorities?
The consent letter offered on this website may or may not be considered sufficient by a country’s immigration authorities, as some countries impose their own entry/exit requirements on minor citizens.
For example, a child with Costa Rican-Canadian citizenship requires a legally certified consent letter, translated into Spanish and signed by one or both parents, plus a special permit issued by Costa Rican authorities, in order to depart from Costa Rica.
Be aware that a foreign country may automatically deem a child born in Canada to be one of its citizens if one or both parents are citizens of that country. As a “deemed citizen,” the child may be subject to the same entry/exit requirements as other citizens of that country.
We strongly recommend that parents consult with an embassy or consulate of any country where their child may be a “deemed citizen” and enquire about travel documentation and other entry/exit requirements before travelling to that country with their child.
You may find additional information under “Entry/Exit Requirements” in the Travel advice and advisories for your destination country, our Dual citizenship page and our booklet Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know.
- What can be done if a parent refuses to sign the consent letter?
We recommend trying to find out the reason for the refusal. It may be possible to clear up a misunderstanding or address the other parent’s concerns.
Alternatively, family justice services (e.g. mediation) may help. For a list of services available in each province and territory, see the Department of Justice’s Inventory of Government-based Family Justice Services.
You may also wish to consult with a family lawyer. Note that Global Affairs Canada cannot provide legal advice.
- What can be done if there is a risk that the accompanying parent will not bring the child back to Canada?
We recommend consulting with a lawyer without delay and proceeding with caution before signing a consent letter. For more information, see our publication International Child Abduction: A guidebook for left-behind parents or consult our Child abduction and custody issues page.
- Is a consent letter still recommended from a parent who has been denied access rights?
A consent letter is not necessary from a parent who has been denied access rights by a court order. We recommend that the accompanying parent who has full/sole custody of the child carry a copy of the court order when travelling abroad.
- If a court order states that one parent can travel abroad with the child without the consent of the other parent, what documentation is required?
We recommend carrying a copy of the court order stating that the other parent’s consent is not needed to travel abroad with the child. Any questions about the wording of the court order should be directed to a family lawyer.
- Is it possible to write a consent letter without specific travel dates so that it may be used for multiple trips (e.g. if the child travels frequently or the non-accompanying parent is not readily available to sign)?
We recommend carrying a letter with specific travel dates (as in the sample consent letter on our website). Doing so may help minimize complications when entering or exiting another country.
Consult with a lawyer for information on obtaining a document stating that the child has permission to travel abroad on nonspecific dates.
- If the accompanying person is not the child’s biological parent (e.g. an adoptive or foster parent) but has custody or guardianship rights, is specific documentation needed for the child to travel abroad?
We recommend carrying a copy of a court order stating that the accompanying person is the child’s lawful custodian or guardian. If the child is in temporary care, we recommend carrying a consent letter signed by the appropriate child welfare agency representative granting consent for the child to travel with the accompanying person. Consult with a lawyer or the child welfare agency if in doubt about documentation requirements.
- If the parents are separated or divorced, does the child or accompanying parent need to carry documentation (e.g. a court order or separation agreement) other than a consent letter signed by the non-accompanying parent?
In addition to carrying a consent letter, we recommend checking with an embassy or consulate of the destination country in case other documents are required.
- If the other parent is not in the picture and obtaining a consent letter is impossible, what other documents can be carried?
If there is a court order stating that the whereabouts of the other parent are unknown and granting the accompanying parent full/sole custody, we recommend carrying a copy of that document.
If a court order has not been issued, we recommend consulting with a lawyer to consider taking legal action.
If the other parent was granted access rights by a previous court order, but has not exercised those rights in a long time and is now unreachable, we recommend consulting with a lawyer to consider obtaining an up-to-date court order.
In either case, we recommend carrying a copy of the court order.
If in doubt, be sure to consult with a lawyer, as each situation is unique.
- What documents should a child carry when travelling abroad, apart from a Canadian passport and consent letter (if applicable)?
Since parents are not identified on a child’s passport, we recommend that the child carry a copy of the long-form (or parental information) birth certificate, which clearly indicates the parents’ names. The long-form birth certificate is not a mandatory travel document, but it may help to establish the relationship between the child and the accompanying parent and/or the parent signing the consent letter.
For more information on the long-form birth certificate, contact the government of the province or territory where the child was born.
Check with the destination country’s embassy or consulate in Canada regarding additional documentation that may be required, including divorce papers, custody court orders or a death certificate (if one parent is deceased).
- If the non-accompanying parent is not identified on the child’s long-form birth certificate and does not have access or custody rights, is there any reason for that parent to sign a consent letter?
A consent letter is not needed in this case. However, we recommend carrying a copy of the child’s long-form (or parental information) birth certificate when travelling abroad with the custodial parent.
If the child travels alone, we recommend carrying a copy of the long-form birth certificate as well as a consent letter signed by the custodial parent.
- If the child is a naturalized Canadian or permanent resident and immigrated to Canada with only one parent, does the parent who lives abroad need to sign a consent letter?
We recommend carrying a consent letter signed by the parent who lives abroad. The signing of the consent letter may be witnessed by anyone who has attained the age of majority (18 or 19, depending on the province or territory of residence), including a consular officer at any Canadian government office abroad (fees apply).
If it is impossible to obtain a consent letter from the parent who lives abroad, we recommend carrying a copy of a court order granting full custody to the parent in Canada and stating that the other parent has no rights over the child.
If a court order has not been issued, we recommend consulting with a lawyer, as each situation is unique.
- Is there any reason to be concerned if the information requested in the sample consent letter or interactive form is not available or applicable (e.g. passport number, destination address)?
The content and format of the child consent letter may be modified to meet your needs. The sample consent letter and interactive form on our website allow you to include information that fits your specific situation or to leave out information that is not available or applicable. However, we recommend including as much detail as possible.
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