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What permissions are needed for a child to travel abroad?

In the UK, you must get permission from those with parental responsibility. 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. 

You automatically have parental responsibility if you’re the child’s mother. Fathers will automatically have parental responsibility in certain circumstances (eg if they are registered as the father on the birth certificate). However, even parents with parental responsibility will need permission from anyone else with parental responsibility before they take the child abroad. 

For example, if a father with parental responsibility wants to take his child abroad, he would need permission from anyone else with parental responsibility (eg the child’s mother) to do so. For more information, read Parental responsibility.

You can typically take a child abroad without permission from those with parental responsibility for up to 28 days, if a child arrangement order is in place, saying that the child must live with you. If a child arrangement order is in place, but a court instructs you not to take the child abroad without permission, you cannot do so.

Ask a lawyer if you have any questions.

If you share custody of your child with the other parent or legal guardian and are travelling abroad with the child, you will generally need the other parent’s (or guardian’s) permission.

A couple, who shares parental responsibility, and takes their child abroad, will typically not require permission to do so from anyone, provided no one else has parental responsibility for the child.

Where one parent (or legal guardian) with parental responsibility is travelling abroad without the other parent (or legal guardian) with parental responsibility, the travelling parent should typically have the other parent’s permission to take the child abroad.

What if I don’t have parental responsibility?

If you don’t have parental responsibility and don’t have permission from those with parental responsibility to take the child abroad, then you can apply to the court for permission.

When you apply to the court for permission, you may need to provide details on:

  • the travel destination (eg the city and/or country the child is travelling to)

  • where the child will be staying (eg the name and address of the hotel the child will be staying at)

  • the date of departure 

  • the date of return

  • the contact details of the people with parental responsibility

If the child is being taken abroad for a longer trip, you will typically need to provide more information (eg what education the child will receive while they’re abroad).

If you have any questions about applying to the courts to take a child abroad, Ask a lawyer.

What documents are needed for a child to travel abroad?

You or your child (if they are travelling alone or with an adult who does not have parental responsibility, eg an aunt or other adult chaperone) may be asked to show proof of the child’s permission to travel.

A letter from those with parental responsibility (eg the parents or legal guardians) is generally enough to show to the UK or foreign border control at the airport that the child has permission to go abroad. Consider creating a Child travel consent form. Note that 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.

Additional information may be required by border control authorities or airlines, such as:

  • evidence to show the relationship with the child (eg a birth certificate, adoption certificate or special guardianship order)

  • marriage or divorce certificate if you are a single parent but your surname is different from your child’s surname

Such a letter can also be used to set out the child’s relevant medical needs or allergies. Any details regarding medical needs or allergies are to provide general information on the child’s health and does not amount to parental consent to administer medicine. A medical consent form is typically required for parents to consent to someone administering medication to their child. Ask a lawyer for more information.

You should also be aware that the country that you are travelling to may have additional requirements before you enter. Generally, you can find this information out from the relevant embassy or consulate. The embassy or consulate may also indicate what age limit a person is considered a child.

Generally, it is not a legal requirement for children travelling domestically in the UK to have a travel consent form in place. However, permission from those with parental responsibility may be required if the child is going on school trips, solo trips, or travelling with a chaperone who does not have parental responsibility. 

To learn more about parental responsibility, children, and travel, read Parents’ rights and responsibilities.

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