Travelling abroad with your child

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel rules relaxing across large parts of the world, many are hoping to travel abroad this year. Families, in particular, are hoping to take advantage of the half-term to spend a well-deserved holiday outside of the UK. However, anyone travelling with a child (especially if it involves going abroad) may need to show that they have permission to do so. Read this blog to find out more about travelling abroad with your child.

When can my child travel abroad?

Generally, anyone with parental responsibility for the child needs to permit the child to travel abroad. This means that even parents who have parental responsibility need permission from everyone else with parental responsibility before they can take the child abroad.

Parental responsibility means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent (or legal guardian) has for a child and the child’s property. 

The child’s mother will automatically have parental responsibility, while fathers only automatically have parental responsibility in certain circumstances (eg if they are married at the time of birth). People can gain parental responsibility later, for example, by being registered on the birth certificate as the father or by entering into a Parental responsibility agreement.

What if a child arrangement order exists?

The rules are a bit different if a child arrangement order is in place. This is a court order saying who a child must live with.

The person who the child lives with under a child arrangement order can generally take a child abroad for up to 28 days without needing the permission of those with parental responsibility. However, care must be taken as some child arrangement orders may say that the child cannot be taken abroad without permission.

I have shared custody – what does this mean for me?

As everyone with parental responsibility for the child needs to give their permission for the child to be taken abroad, anyone with shared custody will need permission from the other parent or legal guardian (or anyone else with parental responsibility) before taking the child abroad. This means that if you want to take your child overseas, while the other parent remains in the UK, you will normally need permission from the parent staying behind (and anyone else with parental responsibility).

If a couple, who share parental responsibility, wants to take their child abroad, they won’t generally need permission from anyone else to do so. However, this will only be the case if no one else has parental responsibility for the child.

So how can I get permission to take my child abroad?

It is a good idea to have written permission to take your child aboard, as you may be asked to show this to UK or foreign border controls.

Generally speaking, a letter from those with parental responsibility is sufficient to prove that you and the child have permission to travel abroad. You can use a Child travel consent form to do this. This consent form sets out:

  • who the child is travelling with
  • where the child is travelling to
  • the parties with parental responsibility for the child 
  • confirmation that the parties with parental responsibility have permitted their child to travel abroad
  • emergency contact details

The child travel consent form should be signed by the parents (or anyone else with parental responsibility) in front of witnesses (ie individuals, like family friends). In some cases, depending on where the child is travelling to, a child travel consent form may need to be signed by a lawyer or notary.

Is there anything else I should consider?

Before travelling abroad with your child, you should check the requirements for entering the country you’re travelling to. In some cases, additional information may be required by border control authorities or airlines. For example, you may need to prove the relationship you have with the child (eg by providing a birth or adoption certificate or, if your surnames differ, by providing a marriage or divorce certificate). You can typically find this information on the relevant embassy or consulate website. 


Remember to check the UK Government’s travel advice before going abroad to make your journey as smooth as possible. For more information on going abroad with your child, read Travelling with a child and do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.


Rebecca Neumann