This blog post was updated on July 12, 2021.
The modern family is evolving. While traditional families who all share the same last name may have to deal with fewer issues when traveling or in presenting their identity, for others who are single parents, divorced, or just acting as legal guardians to a child, the very simple act of not sharing the same name as the kid they are traveling with can prove to be a bit of a hurdle. However, it doesn’t have to be a hurdle that can’t be crossed. While the whole travel industry is taking to heightened levels of security, of which identity verification is a huge part, there are certain preparations adults traveling with a minor with a different last name can take. As a parent or guardian, you shouldn’t have pass up on deals on cheap flights because you’re worried you and the child you’re traveling may have a hard time getting through airport security. So to help you and the whole brood have fun on your holiday, we’ve done the research on what you need to know to get through security quick and easy.
If you’re traveling domestically with a minor, then ID requirements and consent are a little less stringent than they would be for international travel.
The two main documents that you will need are:
- The child’s ID
- A form of consent from the legal guardian
When it comes to proper identification for the child, be aware that, even thought the TSA does not require a minor below the age of 18 to present ID when traveling with an adult within the US, some airlines may have this as a requirement for boarding. Make sure to check with your airline well before you arrive at the airport about if or not this is the case. The best document you can carry with you when traveling with a minor with a different last name, is the child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate has numerous benefits because it acts not only as proof of age and as a recognized ID, but most importantly, if relevant, as proof that you are the child’s parent, even when your last names are different.
As for consent form, this should not be an issue if you are one of the parents of the child, as your kid’s birth certificate will answer any questions about your relationship. If you are a guardian or traveling with someone else’s child, then you will need a child travel consent form. While there is no hard-and-fast form for you to use, it’s important that you put together a signed and notarized consent letter from the child’s parent or parents. All you have to do is just make sure the form has the following details:
- The child’s complete name, as mentioned on birth certificate
- The companion (your) name
- The dates you are traveling
- The destination you’re heading to
- The parents’ names and contact information
- A small statement of permission from the parent(s)
While most domestic flights may not even ask you for a letter of consent, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
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In general, minors traveling abroad have stricter rules to abide by. Why? To prevent cases of parental kidnapping as well as child abduction. So, if you think the process of identification and consent is a bit more laborious for international travel, then remember that its in place for a very good reason!
Here are the most important things you will need when traveling internationally:
- Passport for the child
- Consent form from the guardian
- Birth certificate (not required always with a child’s passport, but useful to carry with you to prove relationship with the child)
All children, no matter how young, are required to hold a passport when traveling out of the US. Children must apply for a passport in person (this even counts for newborns) and their parent(s) and legal guardian must sign documents in front of a government authorized passport agent. In the case a parent cannot physically be present when applying for their child’s passport, then they need to submit a a notarized Statement of Consent, which is Form DS-3053.
Consent forms are also a necessity, because you cannot take a minor along with you on international flights without the presence or consent of the other parent or legal guardian. As mentioned above in the Domestic Travel section, you can put together a consent form with the details required. As a precaution, it’s always a good habit to carry signed consent forms even if you’re traveling with your spouse, just in case you are separated or there is an emergency where you are asked to present it in a foreign country.
As mentioned earlier, the child’s birth certificate is a handy piece of documentation to carry with you, especially if you have a different name to the child’s. In the case adoption or legal guardianship are factors in your relationship with the child, then make sure you bring notarized copies of those as well. Remember: If your name on the birth certificate, adoption certificate, or legal guardianship documents is different to that on your passport, you’ll need to bring a notarized proof of name change, (e.g. a court order or marriage license).
Also be aware that customs and security officials at your port of arrival may ask questions to confirm the relationship between you and the child you are traveling with. So, shake off that jet lag and focus a bit so the child’s middle name, their date of birth, or even info on their biological parents roll off your tongue naturally and without hesitation!
So the next time you come across a deal on cheap flights but are hesitant on traveling with a minor who has a different last name, just follow these simple rules and you’ll be sure to have a speedy and painless experience through airport security.