One of your clients, a single parent, wants to take his
9-year-old daughter on a Mexican cruise this summer. He tells you
that the child doesn’t have a passport and asks what he should
Several agents have posted similar questions on Web chat sites
recently. It’s not that the rules were changed they weren’t but
heightened concerns have made proper identification a bigger issue
than ever before.
Agents know that the passport application process is detailed on
the U.S. State Department’s Web site. But does your client really
have to spend the time and money $70 or more to get a passport for
The answer is “no.” But, of course, it’s not quite that
The daughter must have proof of identity, usually an original or
a certified copy of her birth certificate or adoption papers.
Photocopies are not acceptable. (The federal site,
www.travel.state.gov, has additional information.)
The father should bring official proof of custody, if
applicable, and a notarized letter signed by the child’s mother or
legal guardian consenting to the trip.
It’s this consent letter that has been confusing agents,
particularly as some governments now ask a parent traveling alone
with a child to have such a letter regardless of marital status or
According to a spokeswoman for the state department’s Consular
Affairs office, there is no standard wording for a consent letter.
“Whatever the situation is, would require different language,”
explained Kelly Shannon.
But some specific information should be included: the
destination, the dates of travel and authorization for emergency
Shannon noted that foreign governments have different
regulations about what documentation must be shown at entry and
exit points. Mexico, for example, tells parents to carry proof that
the children are theirs, particularly if the surnames of the
parents and the children are not the same.
The country’s consular advisory memo also advises that entry
regulations require Spanish translations of all legal documents,
including notarized consent decrees and court agreements.
The site says that the policy isn’t always followed and
English-language documents are almost always sufficient but at
least now you know.