What documents should children bring when travel to the U.S. alone?

I have had a number of clients who are interested in their child visiting the United States. Often, the parents are interested in their child doing some kind of summer camp or brief academic program in the US. Sometimes, this involves the child traveling alone or with only one parent. Most people know that visiting the United States always requires some type of visa. However, many people don't realize that there can be problems if a minor is traveling alone, or with only one parent, even if they have a valid visa.

Because child abductions are relatively common in cases of disputed custody, and due to the prevalence of human trafficking, the United States government has become more watchful when children travel alone or with only one of their parents. In other words, even if the child has a valid visa of their own, there may still be problems in attempting to enter the United States.

The absolute best way of dealing with this potential issue is to have the child travel with a written consent letter signed by both parents. Note that this is a good idea even if the child is traveling with one of their parents. Unfortunately, the US government has not provided a standard form for this letter. Parents have to write their own letter. The good news is this is fairly simple to do, provided that parents know what information to include in the letter.

Here is a quick guide to what information the parental consent letter should provide:

  • Who—provide the name of your child, as well as your name and your spouse's name. Also include your child's passport number and date of birth.
  • When—provide the period of time (range of dates) during which your child will be in the United States.
  • Where—provide information about where your child will be staying while in the United States.
  • Why—provide information about the purpose of your child's visit.

Finally, and importantly, the letter should include signatures and addresses of both parents. Ideally, the letter would be notarized. However, this is not absolutely necessary.

If your child travels with signed consent letter, this greatly increases the likelihood that they will be able to enter the United States without difficultly. Please feel free to contact us or call 415-221-2345 if you have further questions.

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