Children and Travel: What You Should Know

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Special rules apply when children under 18 travel in Canada or to another country. Some rules depend on whether the child is travelling alone or with an adult. Canada, foreign countries and transport companies all have their own rules. Find out what they are for a vacation without worry.

 

1 – Travel to another country: Children need a passport.

The Canadian government recommends that all children under 18 have a valid passport when travelling outside Canada. This rule also applies to new-borns and young children.

Teens under 16 need their parents’ consent to get a passport. Once they turn 16, they can apply for a passport on their own.

Important! Before leaving, contact the consulate or embassy of the country your child is going to. The country might ask for other travel documents, such as a visa, temporary visitor or resident permit, birth certificate or vaccination certificate).

For more information, read our Passports article.

 

2 – Children need their parents’ consent to travel.

Children under 18 always need their parents’ permission to travel. This rule applies whether they’re travelling in Canada or to another country.

Children travelling with only one parent should have a letter of consent signed by the other parent.

Children travelling with someone other than a parent (e.g., on a school trip) should have a letter of consent signed by both parents.

 

What is a consent letter?

  • It is a document that tells the immigration authorities that the child has the parents’ permission to travel.
  • A consent letter is not absolutely necessary in Canada but is strongly recommended. It could make it easier to enter and leave a country.
  • The letter must state where the child is going and the length of the trip. If the child is travelling with an adult who is not the parent, the letter should name the adult (e.g., a teacher taking the child on a school trip).
  • Find out! Transport companies sometimes require a special consent form.

For more information on consent letters, visit the Government of Canada’s FAQ Web page.  

 

3 – Children travelling alone: Follow the transport company’s rules.

Teens and children can travel alone, either within or outside Canada, if they have their parents’ consent.

Transport companies have their own requirements, depending on

  • where they are going (in Canada or to another country),
  • how they are travelling (by plane, train, bus or boat),
  • the route (with or without stops),
  • the child’s state of health (e.g., children with serious allergies might have to travel with an adult), and
  • the child’s age.

Before letting your child travel alone, the transport company might ask you to sign a special consent form and even ask for a medical certificate. Some companies ask parents to stay with the child until the child gets on the plane, train or bus, and to make sure that an adult will pick up the child at the other end of the trip.

Contact the transport company your child will be travelling with.

 

4 – Divorced or separated parents: Special rules apply.

Other rules apply if the parents are separated or divorced and have joint custody.

To learn more, see our Child Custody section.