My 12-year old son will be traveling from Los Angeles to Seoul for Christmas. He will be traveling with my sister. What paperwork should my sister bring with her to show the U.S. authorities at the airport that she has the authority to have my son in her care?

Carmen Villamor Conversations on Immigration Customs Border Patrol


The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the federal law enforcement body in charge with regulating and facilitating immigration in our U.S. borders.  CBP strongly recommends that when a child is traveling with only one parent, there must be a note from the other parent. If there is no second parent with legal claims to the child, you can present a court decision or a birth certificate naming only one parent. If the second parent is deceased then present a death certificate.

And when a child is traveling with a non-parent (like a grandparent, uncle or aunt, friend, or in a group), there must be a note from both parents.  

The note will say something like this: "I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter/group. He/She/They has/have my permission to do so." The note does not have to be notarized but notarization is helpful.

When your son travels with your sister, it is possible that CBP will not ask to see any documentation. But if they do and your sister is not carrying one, they will be detained until the circumstances of your authorization is verified. 

Adults traveling with children should also be aware that, while the U.S. does not require this documentation, many other countries do. So it is good practice to have documents handy. This way, we are also helping border officers do their jobs in curtailing child abductions and trafficking.