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Passport Canada can save you money

I am straying way off topic this week.  Consider it a public service message.  I hope to save some folks a bit of money.

It has to do with travelling with a child when one or both parents are not along for the trip.  To prevent child abductions, border officials will want to know that both parents have consented.

I am consulted on a regular basis about what it takes to satisfy border officials.  Parents bring in letters of consent that they have drafted on their own, hoping that they contain the magic words that will ensure that the trip to Disneyland won’t be a disaster with the children turned around at the border.

I have always responded that I have no expertise in international child travel.  It’s probably a frustrating response coming from a lawyer.  There seems to be an expectation that lawyers will know everything.

While my wife might say I THINK I know everything, I have a little confession to make.  This lawyer, at least, doesn’t.  Thankfully, my wife doesn’t read my column so won’t see my confession.

They then ask me to “notarize” the letter, which involves me witnessing the parent’s signature after reviewing their identification.  It is a piece of “legal work” that takes me all of about 15 seconds, and I charge $30.00.

Talk about easy money!  If I had line-ups of folks wanting me to witness their signatures I could make a really good living doing that “legal work” alone.

It actually makes me uncomfortable charging $30.00 for 15 seconds of my time.  I resolve that discomfort by handing over 100% of those fees to a local non-profit association.

I have recently learned from a little bit of internet research that the hassle, time and expense of booking in to see a lawyer for the purpose of notarizing a consent letter should not be required.

I invite you to type “travelling with children” into your search engine.  When I do that, the first non-advertising result is a federal government web site of Passport Canada.

The web site discusses various pieces of documentation you ought to have with you when travelling with children.  One of those is a parental consent letter.  Click on the link to that letter and up comes a user friendly page that will prepare the letter for you.  No more wondering whether or not the letter will have the right “magic words”.

The best part is that there’s no requirement on the form for the parent’s signature to be witnessed by a lawyer.  The parent granting consent can simply sign in front of a friend or neighbour.

Thank you, Passport Canada, for making it so easy.

Published February 2, 2012 in the Kelowna Capital News