Different surname to your kids? Going abroad? Vital info, so you don’t get stopped at border control

If your children don't share your surname, be prepared when you come to passport control

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Getting your family through the airport in one piece can be stressful enough.

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But what do you do when you get to passport control and you’re asked how you’re related to your children?

Sounds ridiculous, but that’s the question many parents who don’t share their child’s surname face.

This is because children’s passports only display their father’s surname. So if you’re not married or you are and have maintained your maiden name you could be stopped.

In fact, if you have different surnames to your children and want to prove that you’re their parent, you’ll need to carry legal documents.

According to the Parental Passport Campaign, over 600,000 parents experienced delays and hassle at border security simply because they didn’t share a surname with one of their children in the last 5 years.

One mum, who isn’t married to her partner, told The Guardian how she is often stopped flying home to London with her two daughters, aged 6 and 8. “The most recent case was last October. He checked all the passports, then said directly to my eldest: ‘Who is this lady?’ It sent a total panic through my daughters. They thought something was dreadfully wrong. And I felt incredibly embarrassed.”

There’s a good reason why this happens: to reduce child trafficking. However, more and more unsuspecting mums are getting caught out. 

According to Border Force, the Home Office agency that controls our borders, if you’re travelling with a child under 18 and have a different family name, you may be asked “a few questions to establish your relationship with the child”.

If you want to avoid these additional checks then you need to carry evidence of your relationship with your child.

This could include copies of:

  • a birth or adoption certificate showing your relationship with your child
  • divorce / marriage certificates – for parents who have a different surname to the child
  • a letter from the child’s parent/s giving authority for the child to travel with you and providing contact details – if you are not the parent of the child you’re travelling with

See the Border Force downloadable factsheet for more info. 

In 2010, Helen Perry launched the Parental Passport Campaign, in an effort to end this confusion. Her solution seems straightforward – simply add both parents’ names to children’s passports.

She is hosting a meeting with MPs at Portcullis House today. “Theresa May is aware of the campaign and could make this happen,” she explained.

In the meantime, if you’re travelling this summer with your children and a different surname – make sure you’re prepared. 

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MadeForMums Writer – Jessica Gibb

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