One of the hottest topics on my Blog, with consistently the highest number of readers and to which readers are returning over and over again is the knotty question �What documents do I need to supply when my children are travelling alone i.e. without both parents?�
I am not surprised. The newspapers are full of warnings and stories about grandparents or single parents or family friends being detained with children at Airports and Border crossings whilst the Authorities investigate possible child abduction.
One problem, as I have just checked on the net, is that for every hundred websites addressing this problem there will be at least one hundred different pieces of conflicting advice.
A National website of any Country will advise only as to their own Country�s requirements. An Airline site will advise only about its own Company policy � usually each giving no regard to the bigger picture.
The fact is that the only safest way forward is to give the matter as much thought and preparation as possible and to prepare a pack of documents including a Parental Consent. Among them I would suggest:-
* Birth Certificates of the Child and both Parents,
* the Parents� marriage certificate if applicable,
* the Parents� or Guardians� own passport copies,
* copies of the flight bookings if possible,
* proof if the non-travelling parent has paid for the travel
* And then to get the whole pack Notarized.
Sometimes all of these papers are not available of course, but the thing is to show as much as you can.
It does concern me that so few �advising� websites mention Notarization because many Countries insist upon this and those who do not insist are nevertheless more likely to accept a Notarized certificate without fuss.
Further if your children are travelling without both parents [ i.e. with only one parent, or with friends or wider family non-parental adults] to Countries that have signed the Hague Convention 1961 [I can advise about that] then I can proceed to get a Foreign & Commonwealth Office Apostille stamp � and for appropriate Countries I can get the Consular stamps also.
A further tip I would give is that you should prepare your certificate in more than one original or at the very least one original but with several certified copies. There are many Border Guards who will take the certificate away from the travellers and keep it to protect their own position in the event of any later problem. Of course the downside of that is that at the next border, or in a vast country like Brazil then at the next internal flight airport, you have no papers left in your possession to produce to the next Border Guard who wants to see it.
I am not saying that if you do not make these preparations then your children will necessarily have to end up in a timeless limbo like Tom Hanks in The Terminal � growing up stateless in an Airport! � but even half an hour spent in detention in a Customs office or a Police Station can be a very horrible experience. And of course a very expensive one if there are missed connecting flights and where perhaps there is only one flight a week between destinations then there will be additional hotel, taxi and food costs wasted during an additional unwanted and enforced week on �Holiday�.