16 year old travellers: do they need parent's written permission?
Son, aged 16, flew with BA to Boston and back last month. His first solo transatlantic trip (and thank you BA for taking such good care of him). All went smoothly, until he was back at Terminal 5 coming through UK Immigration (he is a UK citizen). At this point he was told by the lady at Immigration that he should not be travelling as an under 18 without a letter of permission from his parents. She asked where he'd been, who he'd been staying with, how he knew them, how his parents knew them and so on. Remember by this time he's back home.... He told her that I was collecting him from the airport and she said that she really ought to accompany him landside and hand him over to me. Son rather sensibly suggested that she call me on my mobile but she declined, and eventually, after a bit of lecturing, she let him through.
Now I can see some reasons why it might be sensible for an under 16 to have a permission letter -- I suppose he could be a runaway. But at no point has it been indicated to me that it was required. Not when I renewed his passport a few months ago, nor when I booked his BA flights, nor when he checked in, nor when he left the UK, nor when he arrived in the US, nor when he left the US again. There is nothing on the UK Border Agency or Home Office web sites. He has travelled before without a letter and has never been challenged. And, having questioned several friends with 14-16 year olds who travel alone, no one else has been challenged either.
I have in the past provided a letter when he was much younger and travelling with adults who were not relatives, but stopped that when he was clearly old (and large) enough for it to be clear he was not being coerced.
So it's all a mystery. Does anyone else have any experience or know if a letter really is required? I just can't see why she would say so if it wasn't but it does seem odd that it has never come up before.
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I was a hefty kid so it never happened to me despite making 6 intercontinental flights a year on my own from 12 years old onwards (though I was nearly arrested in France because I didn't have mes papiers, which if you're 14 you don't need, until les flics think you're older than 18...).
However I can recall the story of my slim older cousin who fought in the first Gulf War, he was 17 years old at the time. He was stopped upon return to LHR and asked why his parents hadn't given him travel permission. He pointed out, to the woman's evident shock, that he was old enough to be a professional soldier and therefore was beyond parental control.
When I went to TPA about 6 months ago with my friend and his family I had a letter written by my Dad giving permission and I was asked for it at immigration. Very friendly immigration officer though- nothing like Ian Foot off 'Come Fly With Me"
Travelling on domestics I never need a letter of permission- I have more of a clue about travelling than quite of a few other passengers!
I know about some countries (Romania for instance, I believe) requiring an authorisation from parents for under-18s (or similar) to travel out of the country on their own*, but I had no idea about that requirement for the UK.
*It may be applicable only to their citizens in some cases
My daughter has been caught out this way as well (she was 16). I understand that a child travel consent letter is recommended for all minors who are travelling without their parents.
This can be enforced quite strictly for both entry and exit to the USA for all under 18 years old, but why we even question UK citizens trying to enter their on country is bizarre.
Even more confusing is the age of a minor in the UK - under 18 in England and Wales and NI, but 16 in Scots law. It was only when going through Heathrow she was questioned - both GLA and EDI class her as an adult.
British Citizen, British passport ... surely the individual's travel arrangements are nothing to do with the UK Border Agency?
See the introduction paragraph (in layman's terms: doesn't apply to people from the European Economic Area, and that means Brits):
5. Save where expressly indicated, these Rules do not apply to those persons who are entitled to enter or remain in the United Kingdom by virtue of the provisions of the 2006 EEA Regulations. But any person who is not entitled to rely on the provisions of those Regulations is covered by these Rules.
Thank you all. I think it is a load of baloney too, although now it's happened I suppose I shall have to give him an appropriate letter when he flies to Athens the week after next, not least in case he encounters the same lady on the way back in again...
It's just as well I was picking him up at the airport. My husband still thinks I ought to have let him come back home on the tube..
I thankfully never had a problem when I was travelling alone under 16 but my brother once had a difficult time with an immigration officer at JFK. Since that unpleasant experience he hasn't travelled alone again.