Festive holidays, family vacations or events like weddings and parties usually mean that the trips include all the members of the family. This means that the younger members of the family, the children will also be tagging along. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials are always on high alert and watch for cases of child abduction and Human Trafficking, and may ask detailed questions about the kids that a traveller will be travelling with. In general, when planning to leave the country with children, travellers should make sure they have a Passport for the child regardless of how young they maybe. Their birth certificates also come in handy.
Important Considerations when Travelling with Children
When travelling in a group of vehicles, the parents or guardians of the children should travel in the same vehicle as their children when arriving at the border. Kids old enough to speak for themselves may be encouraged to do so by the Customs Officer. You should let them know that and keep them prepared to answer the officer’s questions.
Children Travelling without Both Parents
It is strongly recommended that if only one parent is crossing the border with a child under the age of 18 they should have a Consent Letter from the other parent granting permission to take the child out of the country. It is even more important if the child is travelling with a friend or relative without either parent present.
During Inspection Border Officials will also be making a judgement call as to whether something is wrong. If only one parent is present they may ask a question about the child and, if everything seems OK, they may simply waive the traveller through without any further questions. However, if there are any concerns, they will then begin examining the situation to determine a proper course of action. A Consent Letter is useful because it puts all the information required in one spot, it also shows that a traveller took the extra time to get the necessary approvals.
There is no legal requirement for a Consent Letter. There is no specific format required for the letter and there is no requirement that the letter be certified. However, border officials have complete and absolute discretion to allow, or deny entry or exit to anyone into the country if there have reasonable doubt to suspect any criminal activities. Whether a traveller has a letter or not they need to be comfortable that everything is above board or they will start digging to determine if child abduction is in process. A copy of the letter can be used but an original copy is always better. The Letter is only going to matter if the officers are concerned about the situation and feel they need to examine it closer. Divorced parents who share custody of their kids should carry copies of the legal custody documents plus a letter of authorisation from the other parent. For a legal guardian transporting the child, a copy of the court order granting guardianship should be brought along. If only one parent’s name appears on the birth certificate, and the child is travelling with the other parent, a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate should be carried. If one parent has died, it wouldn’t hurt to have a certified copy of the death certificate.
Crossing the Border with Groups of Children
Zimbabwean citizen children under the age 18, travelling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization, or sports team, must present a Passport, original or copy of his or her Birth Certificate. Most importantly, the group should be prepared to present a letter, on organisational letterhead, with the following information:
- The name of the group and supervising adult.
- A list of the children on the trip
- The primary address, phone number, date of birth, place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian for each child.
- A signed statement written by the supervising adult, certifying that he or she has obtained parental or legal guardian consent for each participating child.
There is no mandatory letter format. Although not required, it would even be better to bring along copies of all the parental consent letters. Before leaving on the trip it would certainly be safest to make a call to the specific Border Crossing that will be used to give them a heads up and confirm all the required documentation. Section on Border Posts lists the contact information for Zimbabwean Border Posts. Continue reading on the Zimborderguide book here