Travel Tips > Top Tips > Travelling With a Child With a Different Surname

Travelling with Children with Different Surnames

When you are planning an overseas holiday with a child, and you are not the child’s parent, or you and your child share a different surname, you need to ensure you have the correct documentation to demonstrate your relationship. It is likely that trained staff at border control will ask questions and expect to see proof of your right to travel with the child in question. To avoid unnecessary delays (and the risk of being detained at the border) read our advice below about the papers required in different situations:

Travelling with your child with a different surname

Home Office staff are responsible for safeguarding all children who travel overseas and, owing to incidents of child trafficking and abduction, guidelines for border control have become increasingly more stringent. As a result, if you and your child share a different surname, you may be asked additional questions when travelling. The easiest solution is to take your child’s birth or adoption certificate to the airport, as this immediately proves that you have parental responsibility. Alternatively, you can show a divorce, or marriage certificate to establish your parental relationship.

Travelling with grandchildren

Similarly, grandparents are not exempt from proving they have the right to take a child overseas, even if they have the same surname. If you are planning on taking your grandchild abroad, you will need permission from a person with parental responsibility, such as a letter. To ensure the letter is accepted, you will need to provide the parent’s contact details are contained within the content of the letter so that any necessary additional questions, or queries, can be resolved quickly and efficiently by staff at border control.

Travelling with foster children

If you are a foster parent, and you don’t have parental responsibility, you may need to go to court to get permission to take your foster child abroad. You will need to speak to your social worker to find out the requirements in your situation. As with the above circumstances, you will need to produce your legal paperwork at the border.

Travelling with someone else’s child

If you are travelling with a child, and you are not a relative, you will need a letter of consent from a parent and, ideally, from everyone with parental responsibility. The letter should clearly state that you have permission to take their child abroad and should include contact details if further questioning is essential.

Specific rules and regulations

Some countries have particular rules and regulations. For example, when travelling to the USA with a child with a different surname, every child must have a validated permission letter from all persons with parental responsibility, regardless of who is travelling with them, unless proof of sole custody can be provided. Other countries have different expectations; you will need to check before travelling. You can source information via the Home Office website, or by speaking to a representative of your chosen airline.

Travelling without the required documentation

If you attempt to leave the country without the legal authorisation required, you may not be allowed to travel. Safeguarding all children is of paramount importance; the new rules and regulations have been put in place to guard children against the risks of child trafficking and abduction. If you are unable to demonstrate your parental responsibility, or that you have parental permission, the staff at border control may refuse access. While it can be frustrating to have to prove your rights (especially if you are the parent) the rules have been implemented to protect all family members and, most importantly, all children.


Travelling with a child with a different surname can be a challenging experience but, if you research what is required before embarking on your journey, the process should be relatively simple. If you experience any issues, you can contact the Home Office, or your chosen airline, for additional advice and support.


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