Monday, February 12, 2007

Entering the U.S. with Your Children - Travel Information for Parents

We are often asked by parents who intend to travel with their children about new requirements at the US-Canada border.

According to Passport Canada, as of January 23, 2007, all Canadians entering the United States by air must have a valid passport. Canadians who enter the United States by land or sea can continue to use such documents as a birth certificates and drivers' licenses for at least another year.

The following are some of the essentials recommended by the Canada Services Border Agency and The United States Customs and Border Protection Office to help avoid delays or complications at the border when traveling with children after a separation. These requirements may also be applicable, absent a separation, where only one parent travels with a child.

Notarized Letter of Permission

A notarized Letter of Permission is required by the United States Customs and Border Protection Office (and recommended by the Canada Border Service Agency) to evidence entitlement to travel with a child.

In addition to including specific travel permissions, the letter must also include complete contact information for all parents or legal guardians, so that Customs officials can contact the non-travelling parent to verify or confirm any information.

The following is a sample Letter of Permission, provided for example purposes only. It will, of course, require appropriate modification to fit any individual circumstance:



I, ______________, am the lawful custodial parent of

______________ (Child's full name), born ____________ (DD/MM/YY) at ______________ (Place of birth).

The Child's Passport information is as follows:

Passport number: _________________

Date of issuance of passport: __________________ (DD/MM/YY)

Place of issuance of passport: __________________.

______________________ (Name of Person travelling with child) has my permission to travel with the said Child(ren) to visit:

________________ (Place of visit) via ______________ (any stopovers) during the period commencing ______________ (Start travel date) and returning on _____________ (End travel date).

During that period the child(ren) will be residing with:

_______________________ (Name of person travelling with child)
_______________________ (Address)
_______________________ Telephone (h)
_______________________ Telephone (w)
_______________________ Fax/Email Address

Any questions regarding this permission letter can be directed to the undersigned at:

_______________________ (Custodial Parent's Name)
_______________________ (Address)

_______________________ Telephone (h)
_______________________ Telephone (w)
_______________________ Fax/Email Address

____________________ (date) _____________________

Signature of Custodial Parent



The Letter of Permission must be notarized by a lawyer or other notary public.

It is recommended that your lawyer assist you in drafting a Letter of Permission for your particular circumstances. We also recommend that appropriate border authorities be contacted in advance of your travel dates to verify requirements, as these do change from time to time.

Other Documents

In addition to the Letter of Permission, the Canada Border Services Agency further recommends that parents carry the following documentation when travelling with children:

  • Copies of any legal custody documents (custody order, separation agreement, etc.)
  • Child's Birth certificate
  • Child's passport, visas and other immigration documents
  • If no other identification documents are available, a letter from your doctor or the hospital where the child was born, stating that you are the children's parent.
When traveling with a group of vehicles, the parent and child should travel in the same vehicle when arriving at the border.

Applying for a Canadian Passport for children under the age of 16

In cases of separation or divorce, only custodial parents may apply for passports on behalf of their children. Where a joint custody arrangement exists, either parent may apply for the children's passport, but both parents must sign the application.

During this application process, Passport Canada requires that you provide the following:
  • all legal documents that refer to custody, the mobility of, or access to the child
  • the divorce order or judgment, if a divorce has been granted
More information on obtaining a passport for a child is available from Passport-Canada here. The Canadian Passport Application form for children under 16 may be downloaded here.

Up-to-date information regarding U.S. Customs and Border requirements can be found here from the US. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Specific U.S. DHS information on travel with children is here.

- Annie Kenet and Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Visit our Website:


Anonymous said...

More a question than a comment...,

If you wish to avoid the need for letters of permission and other restrictions with travelling with your child, what steps can you take if you have a child with a US citizen and resident?

@wiselaw said...

As I understand it, travel letters are mandatory in the US. If one cannot be obtained, it might be necessary to obtain a court order setting out the travel permission.

Beyond that, as noted in the blog, we also recommend that appropriate border authorities be contacted in advance of your travel dates to dicsuss any special circumstances and to verify applicable requirements, as these do change from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this helpful article... Sometimes it feels like I am the only one contending with this issue right now.

I had two questions about your article.

Can one notarized letter be used for an extended period (ie. a year or longer), or is a different notarized letter needed each time you travel?

And, what would happen if they can't reach the other parent (to confirm the permission to travel)?

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

I will be travelling to the US with my son while my husband is on a business trip elsewhere in Canada. All of the information I've found online seems to pertain to divorced parents. Do you recommend that I get a notarized letter of permission from my husband to travel alone with my son?

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
My son and I are moving to the US from Canada with Husband (who isnt the natural father of my son). Is it possible to get an open travel letter so we dont have to get everytime he comes back to canada.. He will be coming back monthly and I think that will get costly for myself and my ex.