Parental Consent Forms, Traveling With Kids/As a Minor
It wasn't until last year I turned 18, so a majority of my traveling has been done as a minor. While I'm usually accompanied by an adult, there are many times I've traveled unaccompanied or with one parent. In order to reduce the risk of kidnapping and human trafficking, many countries require parental consent forms if you plan on traveling by yourself, with only one of your parents, or with someone who is not your parent.
It's always important to understand the necessary travel documents require before traveling to a new country. For most of us, we think about visas and reciprocity fees we'll need to get out of the way. However, if you're traveling with someone under 18, or you are under 18, you may need a consent form. In this post, I'll address what you need to know about consent forms and how to get them notarized.
Why It's Important
A couple of years ago, I travelled to South Africa with my mother and two sisters to visit our family. It was one of the most amazing trips I've ever been on, and it almost didn't happen. I'll set the scene for you. My family and I had just arrived at London Heathrow International Airport after flying from the United States on our way to Johannesburg, South Africa. We were transiting to a British Airways flight that was scheduled to depart in a couple hours and arrive in South Africa 11 hours later.
When we got to the check-in counter, British Airways staff asked to see our notarized consent form from my father, (I was traveling with my mother to South Africa). Ummmm, what? It took us by a big surprise when we found out a new law passed serval months ago requiring all minors traveling alone, with one parent, or with someone other than their parent to have a notarized document from any parent(s) not traveling with the minor giving permission to enter and exit the country of South Africa. Thankfully the airlines also enforced this rule or we likely would have gotten on our flight and been denied entry to the country.
We were very fortunate to have family in London, (big thanks to Elan, who was able to get the document notarized for us and drive it to the airport in time for us to take the later flight. Ironically he was flying on that later flight which we didn't know at the time but that's a story for another day). The bottom line is it's important to understand what you need in order to enter and exit a country so something like this, (or worse), doesn't end up happening on your next vacation.
I'm Going On Vacation, Do I Need One?
The general rule of thumb is yes. Although many countries don't require one, it can be very helpful when going through immigration and can help you avoid lengthy interviews and questioning. It is a good thing to have just in case, as I've been asked for it before when entering a country that doesn't officially require it. I would always bring one if you plan to travel unaccompanied and are under 18, travel with one parent, or someone who is not your parent. In addition to this, I like to bring proof of citizenship, (a copy of my birth certificate in case it's asked for), and an emergency medical form giving permission to whoever I am traveling with to provide emergency medical care.
How Do I Get My Consent Form Notarized?
There are multiple ways to get a form notarized but the easiest way is to have your bank do it. Virtually every bank can notarize a document for you as long as you provide proof of identification and sign it there. There is sometimes a fee associated with doing this. but it is generally a small fee, (almost always less than $20).
Have you ever needed a consent form and not had one?