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Traveling without folks - sending a 12-year-old to Ireland for the summer

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Children traveling solo

"We are considering sending our 12-year-old child abroad to Ireland next summer, or at least for a part of it, with a close cousin who lives here and would also spend the time there with her.  Our child is an American citizen and also an Irish one, as is our cousin. We have heard that they might have a hard time traveling together because our daughter will not be traveling with a parent. Is that true?”

Not really . . . and definitely not if you prepare for any questions that may arise beforehand.

It is true that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) takes child travel very seriously because of the number of abductions that take place, especially in bitter custody disputes that arise from divorce.

But that’s not to say that children always must travel abroad with two parents.  In cases when this doesn’t  happen, CBP recommends that “unless the child is accompanied by both parents, the adult have a note from the child's other parent (or, in the case of a child traveling with grandparents, uncles or aunts, sisters or brothers, or friends, a note signed by both parents) stating, ‘I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter. He/she/they has/have my permission to do so.’” This comes from straight from the CPB website.

The agency also recommends that the letter be notarized.

“While CBP may not ask to see this documentation, if we do ask, and you do not have it, you may be detained until the circumstances of the child traveling without both parents can be fully assessed,” CBP adds.

As someone who has taken several trips abroad with a child – my 12-year-old daughter, who does not share my last name – but without her father -- my husband – we have never encountered an issue with travel.  Only once were we mildly questioned about our relationship by a CBP officer at Kennedy Airport, and when he saw the very strong mother/daughter resemblance he soon came to the conclusion that we had to be related.

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