Travelling between countries and continents alone with my children has always made friends question my sanity, but what if passport control officers questioned my right to travel alone with my kids?
Unfortunately, that happened. When taking the ferry with my children to England, the British immigration officer asked me why my children were on British passports when I was travelling on an American one; why our last names were different; and where their father was. He also asked my children to tell him their names, how old they were, and what they called me. Only when he was completely satisfied that I wasn’t kidnapping them were we allowed to continue on our journey.
After this incident, for each trip, I drafted a ‘permission slip’ to show that my husband consented to me travelling alone with our children. This consisted of a letter detailing our itinerary, flights and contact details. Both my husband and I signed the document, and I included a copy of his passport photo and signature page. Of course, once I had my cobbled-together consent form, no one asked for it.
However, the need for such a consent form is more than a paranoid assumption on my part or urban myth. Several of my friends and acquaintances have also been questioned at airports, especially when their children were travelling on passports from a country different to that of the parent or had a different last name.
Thankfully, you no longer need to draft your own travel permission slip, because the Dutch government has created (in English) a Consent Letter for Minors Travelling Abroad along with a set of instructions on how to fill out the form and which supporting documents to attach.
If you plan on travelling alone with children across country borders, please fill out and take along one of these consent forms. As the cliché goes: it’s better to be safe than locked up for kidnapping.
Summary of Useful Links
– Dutch government page with description of consent letter and links
– American government page with description of consent letter
– American Minor Travel Consent Form
Photo by John Gilchrist