Traveling with Minors

Travel with Minors Is Full of Surprises

Travel with Minors Is Full of Surprises

Live in Panama? Guess what?  If there is even a remote possibility your kids could have been born here, even if your passport and your children’s passports are in order, you might not be permitted to leave Panama with them unless your spouse is along.  That is, unless you have a notarized letter from that spouse giving permission to do so.

What! You can’t take your own kids to the States to visit Grandma for Christmas while your spouse holds the fort elsewhere?  Nope.  Not without that letter. Not unless you want to be considered a potential kidnapper.

It seems that of late one parent often decides to leave the other and take the children without Number Two’s consent.  This makes for legal problems.  In Central America, various countries have decided they don’t want to play that game, especially Panama.  It’s bad enough when foreign nationals quarrel over their kids, but it becomes especially tricky when the child was born in Panama, thereby becoming a Panamanian citizen, as well as a citizen of the other country. Panama expressly disapproves of foreign nationals running off with their minor citizens.

So, since an ounce of prevention can prevent a need for expensive cures, the solution is a Letter of Authorization to travel from the spouse.  This is what you do:

  1. You need two letters – one in Spanish, and one in English (or your native tongue for non-US citizens).
  2. You will need a letter for each trip. Specific travel dates and airlines should be mentioned.
  3. Each letter needs to be notarized. The Spanish letter should be notarized by a Panamanian notary, and for US citizens, the English one should be notarized by the US Embassy.
  4. Both parents must be in attendance for notarizing the letters. But… what if your spouse is in the military or the Peace Corps or is a computer whiz stationed in some other country?  Fear not. US citizens should call the Embassy (507-317-5000) and ask them what to do. They are VERY helpful.

What happens if you don’t have the letter?  Well, the airlines could refuse to board you.  And… they could call the police. And then… you would probably call the Embassy anyway. Right?

But it’s harder to phone from jail.

Read all about minors and passports at

Scroll down and down and down to find the heading Permission to Travel out of Panama for Minors.  That’s the main scoop.