Children under the age of 18 need the permission of both parents to travel alone or with just one parent. Depending on the type of trip, there are other rules to follow to help everything go smoothly.
Parents’ permission needed
A child or teen always needs the permission of both parents to travel alone, whether in Quebec, elsewhere in Canada or to another country. Granting, or denying, permission to travel is a matter of parental authority. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, for example if a court has granted a child their legal emancipation.
It’s a very good idea for the child to travel with a consent letter. This informs customs officers, transportation companies and others that the child has the permission of both parents to travel.
What is a consent letter?
A consent letter makes things clear for everybody. Some airlines require it. And some countries may refuse to let a child enter or leave without a consent letter.
What to include in the consent letter:
Transportation companies sometimes require the consent letter to be in a certain format. You should check with the company before your child is scheduled to leave!
For more information about consent letters, see the Government of Canada’s frequently asked questions.
Some specific situations
Only one parent is traveling with the child
The other parent’s permission is needed, and a consent letter can help prevent problems. The other parent’s permission is required even if the parents are separated and the parent travelling with the child has sole custody.
The child is travelling with someone other than a parent
For example, on a school trip. Both parents should sign a consent letter.
You can’t obtain the other parent’s consent
For example, the other parent refuses to sign a consent letter, or the other parent cannot be found. In this case, you can ask the court for permission to travel alone with your child.
The other parent is deceased
If you are traveling with your child, it is best to travel with a copy of the other parent’s death certificate. If your child is traveling without you, your child should have both the death certificate and a consent letter signed by you.
You’re afraid the other parent will leave Canada with the child and not return
If you have good reasons to fear allowing your child to travel with the other parent, you can refuse to sign the consent letter. But in this case, the other parent can ask the court for permission to travel with the child. You will have a chance to explain your concerns to the judge.
You can also ask the court to forbid the other parent to travel with the child. But this is granted only in exceptional circumstances.
If the other parent has already left with your child, without your permission, and you’re afraid they won’t come back, or they haven’t returned by the agreed date, you can call the police.
Transportation companies can apply their own rules depending on the destination, mode of transport, stopovers, the child’s age or health conditions. For example, a transportation company can refuse to let a child who has serious allergies travel alone.
Some transportation companies require a consent letter and a medical certificate. They may also require a parent to accompany a child until boarding and an adult to meet the child at the destination.
If these conditions aren’t met, the company could refuse to let the child travel alone. Such conditions are usually listed on the company’s website.
Whether travelling alone or with another person, a child under the age of 18 needs a valid passport for international travel (just like an adult). Even infants and newborns need valid passports.
A child under the age of 16 needs both parents’ permission to apply for a passport. Children 16 or older can apply for a passport on their own. Important: You’re not allowed to sign your child’s passport, no matter the child’s age.
Some countries require other documents before admitting a child, such as a visa, birth certificate or vaccination record. You should check with the consulate or embassy of the country your child will visit.