Getting the family ready to go on holiday can be stressful. Making sure everyone is out the house to the airport at 4am, remembering to lock the back door, ensuring you’ve packed the requisite gallons of Factor 50, and, of course, making sure you have everyone’s passports.
But what happens if those passports cause problems when you reach the border? For hundreds of thousands of parents across the UK, having a different surname to their children means distress and confusion every time they try to take their children abroad.
If a parent doesn’t share a surname with their child, border control officials have no way of knowing if they are really related. Yet parents and children having different names is increasingly common amongst modern British families. More women are keeping their maiden names, re-marriage is on the rise, bringing with it name changes and blended families, and more couples are choosing to have children before getting married. So shouldn’t passports be adapting to reflect this?
As it stands, border control staff can subject parents and children to distressing questioning to verify their relationship. This can be hugely confusing for children and stressful for parents who could do without the added hassle. There exists no clear guidance from the Government as to what documents parents should be carrying to prove they aren’t lying about their family tree. Different organisations give different answers, ranging from some which say you should be carrying birth certificates to divorce certificates, even death certificates in some cases.
This is the situation I found myself in time after time. I have a different surname to my children and never manage to travel smoothly. I received lots of conflicting advice, at one point being told that I should be carrying 7 different pieces of supporting documentation. My niece, who does have the same name as me, has been able to pass through with me unchallenged. But my biological children are always subject to extensive questions. It got to the point when the situation was becoming ridiculous and it wasn’t just happening to me.
That’s why I started the Parental Passport Campaign. The campaign is calling for a simple change to children’s passports which would end this stressful experience which affects 600,000 families across the UK.
Allowing parents or legal guardians to add their names to children’s passports, which could be verified when the passport was applied for, would allow border control to make a quick and simple check when families pass through.
Of course, it is paramount that border staff ensure children are travelling with the correct adults. But there must be an easier way to verify this than random questions and various other bits of ID. That is why I believe that giving parents the option to put their names on kids’ passports would help when the link is not immediately clear.
It seems so simple and straightforward; it would end stress for families, stop border control having to waste their time on such cases, and allow all families to travel safely and smoothly, no matter what combinations of names they’ve chosen to have!
The Parental Passport Campaign has been calling on the Government to do something about this issue and help families across the UK. We’ve spoken to a lot of MPs from across the political spectrum who support the campaign but, so far, the Home Office haven’t been keen to make this change, even though it would be straightforward, low-cost and make a huge difference.
With our society changing and the way our families work evolving, I think it’s about time parents with different surnames to their kids were able to travel easily, without distress. Then all we’d have to worry about is remembering to bring all the passports…
Please help me achieve this simple goal by signing my petition: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/immigration-minister-james-brokenshire-give-parents-the-option-to-put-their-names-on-children-s-passports
Helen Perry, Mother and Founder of the Parental Passport Campaign