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The days are getting longer, the weather’s warmer, and children yearn for summer. As the school year draws to a close, families may be finalizing vacation plans. There are things you should know if you’re planning to travel outside of Canada, especially if you share custody of your children with another parent or guardian.

This article discusses passport applications, including required documents and consent letters. It also discusses what you can do if you believe the other parent may not bring your child back.

Does my child need a passport?

All children, including newborns, need their own passport to travel outside of Canada. You can apply for a passport if you are the child’s parent or legal guardian. If you are divorced, you can apply if you have legal custody of your child or children.

What types of supporting documentation do I need?

When applying for a passport, you’ll need to provide supporting documentation that describes your relationship with the child. If you are applying as the child’s

  • Parent
    You’ll need to prove this by providing a long-form birth certificate or adoption order that lists you as one of the parents. If the child has another parent, he or she should also sign the passport application.
  • Legal guardian
    You’ll need to provide proof of guardianship (e.g., a court order). In addition, if the child has another guardian, you’ll need that guardian’s consent to apply for a passport.

You’ll also need a letter signed from the other parent or guardian stating that he or she consents to the child travelling with you.

what is a consent letter?

A consent letter demonstrates that Canadian children (minors under 18) have permission from parents or guardians not accompanying them to travel abroad.

Although it is not a legal requirement in Canada, a consent letter can simplify travel for Canadian children: immigration authorities may require it when entering or leaving a foreign country. Similarly, Canadian officials may need it when you re-enter Canada.

Although it isn’t necessary to have a witness to this letter, border officials are more likely to accept it as authentic if it is witnessed by an official such as a lawyer or notary public.

The consent letter should fit your specific situation and be signed by every non-accompanying person with the legal right to make major decisions for the child. If the other guardian refuses, a judge can issue an order stating that you do not need the other guardian’s consent. You can also apply for an order that states you have permission to travel with the child.

The other guardian must sign the passport application. If he or she refuses, a judge can grant you permission to sign alone for the passport.

Where a judge has issued an order that says you do not need the other guardian’s consent to travel with the child and that you have permission to travel with him or her, you’ll need to provide a travel itinerary. The judge will review it and will also consider whether the travel in in the child’s best interest.

What if I think the other parent won’t bring my child back?

There’s been an increase in international parental child abduction and custody cases involving Canadian children in foreign countries. If you or your partner is planning to travel abroad with your child, and there’s a possibility that a custody dispute might develop

  • talk to a lawyer before your child leaves home
  • confirm that your custody agreement allows the child to travel internationally
  • ensure that the person with the legal right to travel with your child has a consent letter completed and signed by the parent(s) or legal guardian(s)
  • when travelling abroad and returning to Canada, carry proper identification for yourself and for each child accompanying you to help prove your citizenship, residency and custodial rights

If you believe the other parent isn’t going to bring your child back, you can apply ex parte to the court to have your child’s passport taken away from the other guardian. Ex parte means that you can make an application without notice to the other party. You can also ask Passport Canada to add your child’s name to its System Lookout List if you’re concerned that an unauthorized passport application may be made on your child’s behalf.

If you’re concerned that your child won’t be returned, seek legal help immediately.

We at Lift Legal understand that family law can be complicated. With knowledge of Alberta family law, our team is available to answer your questions and provide sound advice.

Contact us today.



The information on this blog and website is provided by Lift Legal for educational purposes only. It is intended to give readers a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. Information contained in these pages should not be used in place of competent legal advice from a licensed, practising lawyer in Alberta. Furthermore, by using this blog and website, you understand that no lawyer-client relationship exists between you and Lift Legal.

Mel Garbe

Mel founded Lift Legal with the goal of delivering cost effective legal services without sacrificing capability by effectively using modern tools to access the types of resources that larger law firms have access to. The result being that Lift Legal provides high level professional services at a greater value.

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