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Based on the Customs and Border Protection website, I understand that

  1. A single parent entering the US with a child may be asked for a notarized consent letter signed by the other parent, and

  2. Some foreign countries may require such a letter for a child who is arriving having come from the US.

However, it is unclear to me whether US CBP ever requires a notarized consent letter at the time of a child's departure from the US. Do they? Do airlines ever request it (even if the destination country does not require it)?

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    We have travelled with our kids internationally many times in all sorts of different combinations (including one parent) and starting at age 15 or so they went on their own. No one ever wanted to see a letter. We never had one and ever needed one.
    – Hilmar
    Jan 10 at 12:43
  • @Hilmar that sounds like an answer.
    – phoog
    Jan 10 at 16:16
  • @phoog IMHO that's more of an anecdote. I did some quick googling and saw on a couple of websites devoted to international child kidnapping by a parent, that they suggested that notarized travel permission forms are required. But I couldn't find anything definitely related to CBP (but I don't really know where to look)
    – Peter M
    Jan 10 at 16:30
  • @PeterM CBP definitely does not require written permission. If they did, they would say so instead of saying that they "strongly recommend" it or that a parent traveling without the other parent "may be asked" for it. Note that they also don't say what happens if you're asked for it and don't have it. In any event, this question appears to be about flying from the US to a country that similarly does not require such a document, which is a circumstance in which a traveler is almost certain not to come into direct contact with CBP.
    – phoog
    Jan 10 at 18:07

1 Answer 1

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it is unclear to me whether US CBP ever requires a notarized consent letter at the time of a child's departure from the US. Do they?

No. Travelers leaving the US generally do not come into direct contact with CBP. Instead, for those leaving by air, airlines pass their information to CBP. If there were a requirement for departing travelers to show such documents, it would be noted on airline websites. You should certainly check specifically with your airline, of course.

Do airlines ever request it (even if the destination country does not require it)?

I can't say for certain that no airline has ever asked for such a document when the destination country didn't require it, but I can say that airlines typically stick very closely to the requirements of the destination country. That has certainly been my experience with vaccination requirements (both for yellow fever and COVID-19).

Also consider that many single parents travel with their children. If permission of the second parent were routinely required, then you would see airlines requiring single parents to prove that there is no second parent, but this sort of thing is not in evidence on airline websites.

The title mentions TSA. TSA does not concern itself with requirements for travelers to cross borders.

While these documents are not required, it can't hurt to have them. They are inexpensive to produce; many banks will notarize documents free of charge. If someone does decide to check whether there is another parent who permits the travel, the document is very likely to satisfy them more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

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  • I have heard (they were interviewed on the radio) that a mother and teen daughter traveling from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to London (UK) were asked about their relationship and to show proof the father was OK with the travel. And that was not the only story. It does not hurt to get such a letter, it just cost a little in time and money, but much less than not allowed to travel and having to buy a new ticket.
    – Willeke
    Jan 10 at 19:15
  • @Willeke I definitely get the sense that one is more likely to be asked about this in Europe, and perhaps more likely in the UK than in most other European countries. Since the question is about departing the US, though, I think it's pretty safe to say that the risk is low in that case as long as one is certain that such documents are not required on arrival. If they are required on arrival then one should expect to provide them as a condition of boarding.
    – phoog
    Jan 11 at 0:23

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