10 August 2009

Child Abductions

This is the season for child abductions. Summer, with the holidays and trips abroad, is the prime time for children to be abducted, usually by the non-custodial parent. Winter holidays are also a significant time for abductions.

In order to travel abroad, all Canadians, including newborns and children, require a passport. Click here for Passport Canada.

If you are concerned that a non-custodial parent might try to get a passport for your child, you can take preventative action. If you fear the abduction of your child, you may notify any passport office in Canada (or the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate if you are abroad) to have your child’s name placed on the Passport Control List, a list that puts officials on alert. Before your child’s name is included on this list, you will be asked to provide the names and birth dates of both parents and the child, as well as copies of any custody-related documents. Any attempt by another person to get a passport for that child will trigger an alarm, and the custodial parent will be notified. No passport will be issued in these circumstances.

However, many children are abducted, and there are only limited ways and means of securing their return to Canada.

Canada is a party to the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is a multilateral treaty which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. Click here for the Hague Convention.

The objects of the Convention are to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State; and to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting States.

The problem is that while most of the state members of the convention are western developed countries with stable governments and common or civil law systems, the difficult countries of common destination for abducted children tend to be less-developed countries, often under the rule of Islamic or Sharia legal systems. This means there is usually no recognition of maternal parental rights of custody or control. Since the majority of mixed marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims involves a Muslim father and non-Muslim mother, abductions to Muslim countries either go unanswered, or are decided in the Islamic courts in favour of the father who lost custody in a Western country. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are notoriously difficult countries from which to recover an abducted child.

As part of an effort to remedy this situation, Canada has signed to family consular agreements with western-oriented nations: Egypt and Lebanon. Neither is a member of the Hague Convention, but both work with Canada on child abudction cases.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada has developed a public information booklet called "International Child Abductions: A Manual for Parents" that can be seen on the Internet. This booklet comprises all relevant information on how to prevent and to handle abductions in Canada. It also refers to useful websites on the matter, including those of some of the provinces and territories.

If your child has been abducted to or is being retained in a country other than Canada and you are aware of the location, you should contact the office of your provincial or territorial Attorney General and/or Minister of Justice. These departments have special sections designated as the central authority for your province or territory, which are responsible for the administration of the Hague Convention. Your central authority will provide you with a copy of the Convention-approved application form and other information about issues under the Convention.

Child Passports

All Canadians need a passport to travel abroad, even if they are newborns or small children.

Under Canadian passport rules, either parent or guardian can legally apply for the child's passport. This means a non-custodial parent could possibly acquire a passport for a child, then take them out of Canada without the knowledge or permission of the custodial parent.

Passport Canada states "both parents are requested to participate in obtaining passport services for their child and to sign the application form. The other parent may be contacted. To avoid possible delays, we strongly recommend that you provide a long-form birth certificate showing information on both parents. Where a legal guardian is the applicant, the other legal guardian as the case may be is also requested to participate."

"Where a court order or agreement exists referring to custody of the child, only the person with custodial rights may apply. All documents that refer to custody or mobility of, or access to, the child must be provided. If a divorce has been granted, a copy of the divorce judgement or order must also be provided. Where joint custody provisions exist, either parent may apply."

Click here for a passport application for children.

06 August 2009

Thai tourist visa fee waiver

Canadian tourists are allowed to travel to Thailand without a visa provided their stay is for less than 30 days. Any stay over thirty days requires a visa.

If you intend to stay for more than 30 days, you need a visa. The Thai Embassy in Ottawa normally charges $35 for this visa, but had waived the fee in an attempt to attract long-term tourists during the economic downturn.

The programme has recently been extended until March 2010, meaning that the visa is still free, and will be so for another seven months. You still need the visa, but the visa cost is now officially "gratis" (free).

Click here for Thai visa details.
Click here for Thai visa forms.

05 August 2009

Zambia - now with multiple entry

Good news for those of you going on safari to southern and eastern Africa: Zambia now offers double and multiple entry tourist visas.

The price for a single entry visa remains US$50., while the new double and multiple entry visas for tourist and business travel area only US$80. Forms and requirements remain the same.

This change makes it easier to people to do multi-country safaris, and to follow the large animal herds during the annual great migration. This also makes a visit to Victoria Falls better by allowing re-entry to Zambia after crossing into Zimbabwe. The town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, also supports tourist visits to the falls, and is a short hop (13 km) across the Zambezi River border from Livingstone, Zambia. For those liking train travel, the Zambian railway runs to Livingstone beside the falls. There are four trains per week from Lusaka, the capital city, to Livingstone. Trains take 15-18 hours to do the journey, and tickets cost about $8 each. Most tourists fly or take busses.

Click here for an on-screen fillable Zambian visa application and instructions.