Looking to drive across the border or jump on a plane with the kids this summer? Better be prepared – and not just with snacks, colouring books and earplugs!
I’ve flown into the United States with my kids, without my husband, on numerous occasions. While the Government of Canada doesn’t require a consent letter for children traveling without both parents, they strongly recommend it. Murphy’s Law caught up with me once when I was asked to see my letter of consent but had forgotten to bring it! The border official called my husband to speak with him, and was content with this evidence, but he could easily have denied us entry. We made the flight, with a lot of unnecessary stress and a determination to avoid it the next time.
Here are a few guidelines you need to know when traveling with kids by plane or across the border.
Consent letters are not mandatory, but are recommend if you’re leaving or entering the county without both parents present. If your child is traveling abroad alone, with only one parent/guardian, with friends or relatives or with a group, they should have a letter. The letter demonstrates that Canadian children have permission to travel abroad from parents or guardians who are not accompanying them. The letter should be signed by every non-accompanying person or organization with the legal right to make major decisions for the child, including anyone with custody rights, guardianship rights or parental authority (in Quebec only). The signing of the letter can be witnessed by anyone who has attained the age of majority, but it’s recommended that the letter be certified by a commissioner of oaths, notary public or lawyer.
Air Canada and WestJet offer an unaccompanied minor program for children flying without a guardian. The fee to use the program is $100 each way. The service is mandatory for children traveling alone between the ages of eight and 11, and optional for children travelling alone between the ages of 12 and 17.
Children under the age of eight are not permitted to fly alone, though both airlines offer a guardian fare that permits an adult to fly with the child, leave them at the destination and return immediately to their city of origin.
Too many kids!
Many parents like to travel while their children are still babies to take advantage of the children under the age of two fly free rule, but if you have two under two, you’ll need a second parent or another guardian to fly with you. Transport Canada rules state that no guardian can be responsible for more than one infant (any child under two years of age) on board. For example, a dad flying alone with infant twins would be denied boarding.
All children who travel, including brand spanking newborns, require their own passport or travel document. Parents must never sign the passport of a child. Children 11 years of age or over must sign the passport, in ink, in the signature block on page 3 only if their signature appears on page 2 of the passport. Otherwise, the signature block on page 3 should be left blank. Children’s passports are issued for a maximum of 5 years.