Sunday, July 17, 2011

Customs . . . and I Don't Mean Traditions

You may have noticed my accent, but just in case you didn't, I'm not from around here. I was born and raised in Canada. My parents and siblings still live there so I like to visit as often as possible. A recent trip to visit my family in Canada resulted in a visit with a few Canadian Customs Officers. Three to be exact.

Usually when you arrive at the Toronto Airport, you fill out your card, hand it to the agent, answer some questions, then you're waved away to collect your bags

I was traveling alone with my two young children so I was stressed about having to collect and carry all the luggage before meeting my Dad.

As we get of the plane I am feeling very thankful to have the worst part of the journey over, the three hour flight, so I feel calm as I approach the customs officer. She takes our papers and barely looks at me. Then she asks if I have authority to travel with these children. I respond in the affirmative, and she says, "Prove it!"

I reply indignantly, "I'm their mother!"

So, apparently there a policy - not a law - that you need written permission to travel with your children if the other parent isn't present. Maybe everyone knows this but me, but no one told me I needed to have a letter!

The officer explains as much but instead of sending us to baggage claim, we are sent to another officer.

This man stamps the girls' passports and asks me if my husband knows we are traveling and if he could call him and ask as much. I respond, "yes," and am waiting to give him the number, but he doesn't ask. I'm sure it's all part of the process and that he is well trained to read people and just knew I was telling the truth . . . .

After speaking to him we are sent to collect our luggage. Great, one step closer to making it through the travel experience with two kids! All that is separating us from my Dad is a wall with automatic sliding doors. Almost there!

We approach the end of the line to said wall and an officer looks at our customs card. He sends us in a direction away from the wall.

AH, thwarted again!

Now we're in an a true office. There are more custom's officers and some travelers have the contents of their bags strewn all over counters. Great!?!

Thankfully, this officer is more laid back, asks a couple of questions, and sends us on our way. When I ask if I might need a similar letter to get back into the U.S., he responds, "Worse comes to worse, you just stay here and become Canadian!" :)

So, if you plan to travel internationally with your children and your spouse is not tagging along, get a letter of authorization.

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