I have been traveling around Asia with my daughter Lucy for a few weeks now and my husband Kyle has joined us periodically on certain legs of the trip. As I was preparing for this trip before we left the US I thought that I might have some difficulty with customs at the arrival destinations for the cities that my husband would not be joining us on.
It wasn’t just that I was traveling as a solo parent with child, but that my daughter and I do not share the same last name. After doing some light research I found many parents who are separated or co-parent, often run into this problem when traveling outside of their home country with their child. I wanted to be prepared in the event that Customs or Immigration asked me to prove that Lucy was my child, so I packed Lucy’s birth certificate, my marriage license and a print out of our flight itinerary to present to the customs agent in Hong Kong.
As we arrived in Hong Kong via an Air Asia flight from Bangkok, we proceeded through the temperature check area (children are almost always checked when entering into Hong Kong and occasionally my husband and I are checked also) and made our way to the foreigner line at immigration. When we stepped up to the customs officer, I handed over my passport and my daughters passport and had my other documents ready just in case. There was no need. A simple look over our passports and arrival card and we were stamped through and sent on our way. Our family travels to Hong Kong frequently and I am sure they are able to see that in their system, but this experience was no different than if my husband was there with us, seamless and relatively quick.
I decided to do a little more research on traveling as a solo parent with my child internationally and found that it really does depend on where you are traveling to and from. The first step is checking the requirements from each country. I can understand the concern that governments have regarding parents traveling solo with a child. A common method of kidnapping occurs when one parent takes their child overseas without any intention of letting the other parent know where they are traveling to and may have no intentions of returning.
As a safeguard Canada, for instance, requires a parent to have a consent note from the other (non-traveling) parent and that it be notarized. Other travelers have noted issues in Africa and parts of the EU. As a general rule, it is a good idea to check the State Department’s and embassy websites of the country you are departing and visiting.
Canada offers an easy link for a printable consent letter with different formats and helpful information.
Since this was my first time traveling alone internationally with my daughter, the idea of having a consent letter to travel with her was not something I had thought of before. It doesn’t hurt to have these documents on hand with you during your travels as a precaution. I have read of incidents where some parents were unable to travel in certain cases for not having proper permissions on hand during their trip.
While I am happy to report that in my instance I had no issues entering into Hong Kong, had I run into an issue, it would have been a major interruption in our travel plans. In future I will research specifically into the country in which I am traveling to and probably just have a notarized consent document with me.
Has anyone had any trouble entering (or departing) a foreign country as a solo parent?
I had the same worries traveling solo with my daughter last summer. We visited 21 countries in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe and did not once get questioned or delayed at immigration or customs. I had brought a notarized consent from my wife listing all of the countries in addition to a birth certificate. We didn’t use them anywhere. Australia might have been the only place where immigration even asked my daughter if I was her dad. I was surprised. Perhaps I benefited from being a white American?
Wow, that is just impressive overall! In my experience a confident traveler rarely encounters much difficulty.
My wife took our son from Canada into the USA to visit her (snowbird) parents during the winter. I completed the consent form and had it notarized.
We expected that the Canadian immigration officials would ask for it, but surprisingly the US officer asked to see it, too.
Frankly, I wish all counties would take this seriously.
I couldn’t agree with you more.
I did have an issue entering the EU in Germany last year. I did not have a consent letter. My husband was going to meet us later in India after our Germany trip, So we had to show our full itinerary and my husbands to the officer. It took us a long time but am glad they let us enter without issue after they checked all the documentation. Now I am never going anywhere alone with our son without a consent letter.
So what do you do if you’re a single mother or father by choice, and there is no ‘other parent?
Single mother by choice just needs the birth certificate which has only her name. That has only been an issue once and it was resolved by discussing how illogical it was to expect a letter of consent from a non existent parent.
In South-Africa you’ll need your child’s birth certificate even when traveling with your husband.