Important travel documents

Do you know what documents you need to travel out of the country with? Other than a passport that is valid for the next 6 months? Most people don’t. Being prepared can ease a lot of the stress one can potentially face at airports and border crossings. Some of this I have learned the hard way, some is just common sense. I have never regretted bringing a couple of file folders with me with potentially relevant documents.

Even when my ex and I were still married, if one of us travelled with the kids without the other parent, we made sure that the non-travelling partner took with a letter of permission to prove that the other parent is aware of where the children are and with whom. Now that we are divorced and I have custody, I still make sure every time I leave the country with the kids I get a letter from him. Most times they do not ask to see it, but they have asked a few times. You must always ensure that there is a contact phone number just in case. If you are travelling with children, and you are divorced, it is a good idea also to bring with a copy of your judgment of divorce that specifies custody. I have been asked to show it a time or two.

Because I have started the immigration process, I travel with copies of all the relevant forms. Just to back myself up if they want proof.

I bring my recent utility bills – it proves that I maintain a residence in Canada, and therefore probably do not pose a risk of staying in the destination country longer than my brief planned visit. I have had to show these at the border crossing a couple of months back. A recent pay stub is good too, along with a mortgage statement or a copy of a rent receipt.

If you are driving, you need your license and registration, and if it is NOT your car, you need a letter of permission from the owner of the car along with the registration for the car. The letter should state the license plate number, until when you have permission to drive it, and provide a contact number.

I remember once flying through the USA to get somewhere, and not having a ticket back into Canada as I had a friend that was going to drive me upon my return. At the airport in NY they gave me a hard time because I could not prove I had plans to return to Canada. A return ticket helps avoid that hassle.

If you are entering a foreign country for a conference or for a work purpose, you must be prepared to show proof. They have every right to quiz you on why you want to come into their country.

I also shlepp birth certificates (the long ones, that prove I am my kids mom), and my marriage certificate – I have nothing in my married name yet. In Quebec one doesn’t adopt one’s husband’s last name legally, and I have yet to be official in the States, so if for some reason I have to prove I am who I say I am, well, I have the marriage certificate to prove it.

Is there anything I have left out? What documents do you travel with “just in case”?

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15 Comments

  1. IMA2FOUR7 says:

    Hadassah,
    Thanks for reminding me to go to the bank to get the kids’ passports out of the safe deposit box so my ex can take them to Canada for Thanksgiving!
    I signed the letter already.
    I always travel with a passport and when I take the letter saying I have his permission to travel with them.
    Good for you for being so organized, I know like you had a choice?
    I am saying a special prayer for speedy visa preparation on your behalf.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      no, we don’t have a choice, but we have to make the best of the situation. Do you have people to be with over the Thanksgiving holiday? I would hate to think that you were alone. Hang in there.

  2. Z! says:

    I have to bring my green card.
    I have travelled with my marriage license as I was worried that since the name on my Canadian Passport is different from the name on my residence card (married name) they might give me a hard time. But, I usually travel with my hubby, so they seem to understand the name change.

  3. Mark says:

    a letter of permission to prove that the other parent is aware of where the children are and with whom.

    How does such a letter prove anything at all? I can type up such a letter right now, print it up, and take the kids anywhere I want. Where does the “proof” enter into the equation?

    • hadassahsabo says:

      which is why the phone number is necessary so if the customs official wants he can call to verify. In and of itself, you are right, it doesn’t prove anything.

      • Mark says:

        Even the phone number is not enough. Since the person (possibly nefarious) carrying the letter is presumed to have created the letter, then that person also created the phone number, which can be any phone number, even his new girlfriend who will say “sure I allow him to take the kids out of the country” (never to be returned if it’s a non-custodial parent seeking to spirit the kids out of the country to a place where the laws are more favorable – for example).

  4. tesyaa says:

    I have a US passport which I use for ID, as well as an NJ license, etc. But I was born in London and registered as a US citizen at birth (my dad being a US citizen), and while my passport is good for just about everything, there are times I need my “certification of birth of a US citizen abroad”. For example, were I to let my passport expire, I’d need this. When I obtained a replacement SS card, I needed this. When I went to get my first driver’s license, the clerk would not stop asking for my green card. I never ever had a green card! I needed that certificate.

    In short, whenever Americans need a birth certificate, I need this arcane document. My English birth certificate is completely useless to me as an American citizen by birth.

    Confused? Bored?

  5. gemfit says:

    When I was living in Canada, I needed my Australian passport EVERYWHERE, my work permit and something from my company as proof I worked there. I also needed a US tourist visa, even though as an Australian I’m part of the visa-waiver program. Because I was in North America for more than 3 months and was in and out of the US a lot, they sometimes asked for it. Rather have too many documents than not enough!

    Now, living in New Zealand, I carry my passport around but it’s not necessary all the time.

  6. Z! says:

    I always carry a photocopy of my passport and greencard- just in case. I prtefer to keep these documents in a safe place otherwise.

  7. Ilana says:

    Useful post. My husband took our daughter to the U.S. (from Israel, where we live) last year. It never occurred to me to give him a letter saying I let him do it. That said, it was right before Pesach, so no way could he have done it without my permission and support! Seriously, though, it’s a good warning. I’m glad they didn’t have any problems.

  8. IMA2FOUR7 says:

    I am very thankful for my sister hosting a whole big Thanksgiving dinner and so while i will be without I will not be alone.
    Thank you for asking.

  9. David says:

    In my experience, a Canuck married to a Yankee it is never a good idea to tell them you are married to an American before you have status here. My wife and I use to go in separate lines at the airport and she would remove rings etc. I applied for US citizenship the minute I was able to. 5 years after getting married I got it.

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