Traveling with Children
Passports for childrenSince December 11, 2001, all children who travel will need their own passport. You are now required to complete a separate application form for each child requiring a passport, including newborns.
Why does my child need a passport?The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has recommended a policy requiring every individual who travels by air to have his or her own passport. This policy has been put in place to combat the traffic of millions of children around the world who are often sold into slavery, child prostitution or worse. It increases the protection of children, by ensuring that they have a valid passport with a photo and other identifying information.
How does this policy affect current valid passports?If you are a parent who holds a valid Canadian passport that lists the name of your child, the passport will remain valid for you and your child until it expires.
However, there are 2 exceptions. If your child plans to travel without you or when he/she reaches the age of 16, your child is required to have a separate passport.
Who can apply for a child passport?
- One of the child's parents.
- The custodial parent in cases of separation or divorce.
- The legal guardian.
In the case of custody, separation or divorceAll legal documents that refer to custody or mobility of, or access to the child must be provided. If a divorce has been granted, a copy of the divorce judgement or order must also be provided. Where joint custody provision exist, either parent may apply, but both parents must sign the application.
Validity of a child passport
To ensure that the passport and the photo reflect the appearance of the child, the period of validity for a child's passport is determined by the age of the child.
Child under 3 years : 3 years
Child from 3 to 15 years : 5 years
Children who have been issued a passport in their first 12 months after December 11, 2001 are entitled to a replacement passport at no cost.
In order to receive such a replacement passport:
The child must meet all application requirements.
The applicant must submit a current photo of the child taken within one month of the date the application is submitted. This is to ensure that the photo reflects a true likeness of the child.
Documentation to facilitate travel abroad with children
The following documents may be required to support the entry of a child to another country: Birth certificates showing the names of both parents.
- Any legal documents pertaining to custody.
- A parental consent letter.
- If the child is travelling with one parent, the consent letter authorizing travel must be signed and dated by the other parent.
- I f the child is travelling without either parent, the consent letter authorizing travel must be signed and dated by both parents.
- A death certificate, if one of the parents is deceased.
Questions and Answers
Q: What should I do if a custody dispute arises while my child is outside the country?
A: If there is a possibility that a custody dispute will develop while your child is travelling alone or with a parent or guardian, we recommend that you seek legal counsel before the child leaves Canada. You should also consult the publication International Child Abductions: A Manual for Parents.
Your child custody arrangements in Canada may not be recognized in another country. In extreme cases, you or your child may not be allowed to leave that country. Check your own and your child's status with the country's embassy or consulate in Canada before you travel. With regard to custody questions, contact the Department's Consular Case Management Division at 1 800 387-3124 (in Canada) or (613) 943-1055.
Q: What documents should be carried by a child travelling alone or by a parent or guardian travelling with a child?
A: Foreign officials and transportation companies are vigilant concerning documentation for children crossing international borders. Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you, including any documents that might be required by the authorities of the country you intend to visit, and by Canadian authorities on your return to Canada with the child. Generally, persons younger than 18 years of age could be considered children. Proper identification includes, but is not limited to, a valid passport for the child when travelling outside Canada. In addition, we recommend:
- That a consent document or letter be carried to prove that the child has the permission of the absent lawful parent(s) or guardian to travel. This document should be specific to each trip and should include contact information for the parent(s) or guardian. A sample is provided for parents to use as a model to draft their own consent letter.
- This consent document could be required even if the separation or divorce documents award custody of the child to the accompanying parent, but the non-custodial parent has legal access or visiting rights to the child.
- In addition to the certified consent document from the absent parent, a copy of any separation, divorce or custody decree might be requested.
- A child of divorced or separated parents who is travelling without either parent could use either one consent document signed by both parents or two separate documents.
- If a legal guardian is accompanying the child, then a copy of the court order granting guardianship might also be requested.
- If only one parent's name appears on the birth certificate, and the child is travelling with the other parent, then we also recommend that a certified copy of the child's birth certificate be carried.
- If one parent has died, a certified copy of the death certificate could also be carried.
Remember that customs officers, as well as other authorities, inside and outside Canada are looking for missing children and may ask questions. Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you. In addition to passports, proper identification could include, but is not limited to, birth certificates, citizenship cards, landed immigrant records and certificates of Indian status.