Travelling with children: passports may not be enough

It’s getting harder to travel with children – and not just because of the incessant whining.

Some countries are putting in place strict requirements regarding identification, following a spate of abductions.

Take South Africa, for example.

Immigration authorities have noticed an increase in child trafficking.

Now, a plethora of paperwork needs to be provided at check-in to take kids to and from the country and South African Airways warns many families could be inconvenienced, during the upcoming Christmas holidays.

On a recent flight from Perth for Johannesburg, 13 passengers couldn’t leave Australia because they didn’t have the right documents.

“It is simply not enough to have a letter from one parent giving permission to travel when only one parent is travelling with children, or from one or both when children travel alone,” says Tim Clyde-Smith, South African Airways’ country manager for Australasia, says. “A legal, signed affidavit must be produced.”

This is a salient reminder of the challenges faced when taking children overseas.

Of course, everyone must have a passport – even infants.

Then, each passport must be valid for the next six months (or, for some countries, three months).

Usually, children can depart Australia with only their passport and the appropriate visa but many countries require additional documentation for children travelling alone, with a guardian, or one parent.

It’s best to check the entry requirements by contacting the embassy, high commission or consulate of each country.

These include a letter proving the child has the permission of an absent lawful parent or guardian; a copy of any separation or divorce decree that proves you have custody; a court order granting you guardianship; adoption papers; or a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, particularly if only one parent’s name appears, and the child is travelling with the other parent.

While there are often good reasons for extra precautions sometimes it seems the 1950s are calling, asking for their attitudes back.

Ellie Levenson , author of The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism, writes about the time the UK Border Agency questioned the parentage of her one-year-old daughter, after a Eurostar trip.

“The official was concerned because I was travelling with a child who did not share my surname, and suggested that I should also be carrying her birth certificate or a marriage certificate to link my surname to hers, the second of which particularly astonished me given marriage is no indication of parenthood, and there are so many parents who are not married to each other,” she told The Guardian.

She intends to travel with copies of her children’s birth certificates next time.

“Not because it seems reasonable, but because being detained by overzealous immigration officials and missing your train or plane while having to entertain young children is even more of a pain than having to prove parentage.”

It’s hard enough travelling with children, without the extra paperwork.

But if it prevents one more child being kidnapped?

Well, I’m afraid it’s worth the hassle.

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