Traveling With Kids? Don’t Forget the Documents

Traveling with kids can be thrilling, educational, and totally memorable, but it’s not without some red tape – especially if the kids you’re traveling with aren’t your own and even more so if it’s an international trip.

It happens all the time, whether it’s a school field trip or someone’s best friend coming along on a cruise. Traveling internationally with kids requires you to not only be hyper-vigilant but also be the person in charge of the paperwork. And there’s a fair amount of paperwork.

Fortunately, there’s some logic to it. All children you’re traveling with need three things:

Proof of relationship

This is exactly what you think it is: An official document showing how the child(ren) traveling with you are related to you.

This proof can take multiple forms, including:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates or divorce papers
  • Adoption documents
  • Court orders
  • Government-issued IDs (for the children)

Consent to travel

If the kids traveling with you aren’t yours, consent-to-travel documentation is required.

Consent-to-travel docs are basically fancy permission slips from a child’s parents or legal guardian that state it’s okay for them to travel with you.

A child travel consent form has to be signed by both parents or legal guardians and has to contain:

  • The child’s basic information (name, gender, birthday, and place of birth)
  • Both parents’ or legal guardians’ contact information
  • The traveling arrangements
  • The destination

As Law Depot notes, “If the child is traveling with a passport internationally, the Child Travel Consent should also include their passport information and birth certificate number.”

Law Depot also recommends that these documents be notarized. If more than one adult is traveling with a child that’s not legally theirs, they should all have a notarized copy of the Child Consent Form. 

Where this gets tricky is that there is no standard consent form for children traveling internationally with someone who isn’t their parent or guardian; you have to make your own.


The U.S. State Department is clear about this: “All children under age 16 must apply for a passport in person with two parents or guardians using Form DS-11.”

There are a lot of must-dos and mustn’t-dos that go with getting your child a passport, including:

  • Both parents/guardians must say it’s okay for their child to get a passport. The best way to do this is for both parents/guardians to go with the child in person to apply for the passport.

  • You can’t apply online for a child's passport, and children under 16 can’t mail in a passport application.

  • You can’t submit digital evidence of your child's U.S. citizenship; you have to submit an original or certified copy of their citizenship evidence plus a photocopy of the document.

  • You must provide your child's Social Security Number if they have one. If they don’t have one, you must submit a signed and dated statement that includes the exact phrase, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct: (Child's full name) has never been issued a Social Security Number by the Social Security Administration.”

  • You must not sign your child's application until the acceptance agent says you can.

  • You must submit one of the following documents for your child:
  • You also must document your relationship to your child with one of these:
    • U.S. birth certificate
    • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
    • Foreign birth certificate
    • Adoption decree
    • Divorce/custody decree
    • Note: Both the consular report and the U.S. birth certificate are also evidence of U.S. citizenship and these documents must be originals or certified copies (not photocopies).
  • And finally, parents or guardians must present one of the following: 
    • Valid or expired, undamaged U.S. passport book/card 
    • Fully valid U.S. driver's license with photo
    • Naturalization or citizenship certificate, or a green card
    • Government employee, U.S. military or military dependent ID
    • Valid foreign passport or Mexican Consular ID
    • Trusted Traveler IDs (including valid Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI, and NEXUS cards)
    • Enhanced Tribal Card or a Native American tribal photo ID

In addition, 16- and 17-year-olds must:

  • Provide U.S. citizenship evidence and a photocopy; and
  • Show that at least one parent or guardian is aware they’re applying for a passport by having: 
    • A parent or guardian appear with them in person when they apply.
    • A signed note from their parent/guardian with a photocopy of the parent’s ID.
    • Proof that their parent/guardian is paying their application fees – like their name written on the check or money order.
    • A notarized statement from their parent/guardian stating they support their child getting a passport. This must be accompanied by a photocopy of that parent or guardian's ID.

Finally, all this has to be submitted in person at a passport acceptance facility, though you may be able to apply in person at a passport agency if you’re traveling soon. Get My Passport Fast has more information. 

Once you go through all this, your child can get a passport – but remember, it’s only good for five years.

Other countries’ paperwork

You’re still not quite out of the woods. Some countries require additional paperwork for children entering or leaving their country.

For example, Israel used to be one of those countries. While they no longer require minors traveling with one parent or someone who isn’t their parent to have written consent from the other parent(s), it’s recommended that minors carry a notarized letter showing consent.

It can also be tricky if the children hold dual citizenship. But that’s beyond the scope of this article.

It all seems terribly complex, but take it one step at a time and you’ll be fine. Just remember to make travel insurance part of your trip planning as well. Generali’s plans can cover family trips as well as trips with children who aren’t your own.* Contact a travel insurance expert for more information, or get a quote today.

*One plan can cover up to ten travelers that reside in the same state. Otherwise, multiple plans may be purchased.


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