1. Divorescent
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    Divorescent New Member

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    Could a teenager run away from home and catch a plane?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Divorescent, Jun 16, 2016.

    My story calls for a sixteen year old girl to run away from an abusive home in Massachusetts to England to see a friend. Is this possible, and if so, how?
     
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  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Google tells me she'd need parental consent just to get a passport if she were under sixteen, so you're just scraping by there. But to get a passport she'd still need to know to provide ID and fill out forms and junk - here's a guide. The main obstacle to me would be cost, both as far as paying for the passport and booking the flight. But if she has access to sufficient funds (do her parents provide her with money, does she have some put back from working or a college fund she's given access to?) and say, the internet to research all the hoops she has to jump through, I'd say it's possible, yeah.
     
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  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I was going to mention the whole passport problem. They also take a few months after you fill out the paperwork. Depending on the character, you could always have her already having a passport from that time her family went on vacation to Belize.

    You can't buy an airplane ticket with cash. She would need some sort of plastic to buy one. Minors can fly without an adult, my son did it many times when his mom would send him to me and then back again. We had to fill out a form with information about who was dropping him off & who was picking him up. You might be able to get away with the girl having someone older willing to fill out the forms for her but there would probably be a problem at the arriving airport.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does she look sixteen? Does she have an older sister whose passport she could steal?
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it's a question of whether you can create a way for it to work.. It's just a matter of selling it to the reader. There are novels with more unlikely circumstances than a teenager running away to a foreign country.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good question to ask, because if you get it wrong people will certainly notice.

    I'd say you've got three basic problems: age, passport and airline ticket.

    Is it possible to make your character 18 instead of 16? The age problem would vanish, because I believe a person is no longer considered to be a minor at 18 in Massachusetts—which means she'd be eligible for a credit card in her own name. Of course the upper spending limit on a new credit card will not necessarily be enough to buy an airline ticket unless she's got access to quite a bit of wealth or already has a good, steady job. (more later)

    The passport problem would be easily solved if, for some reason she already had one ...although you'd look into what happens to a passport when a minor becomes an adult. If she had a minor's passport from some years earlier, there might be something she'd need to do to prove her age, etc. (Does she have a driving license? She'll need that or some other proof of ID to get anything going here.) You'll need to research that. However, don't even think of her traveling without a passport. She wouldn't get on the plane, never mind get off it in England. And to visit England as an American, she will also need to obtain a visa, which can't be done on impulse. If you're planning to have her stay in England beyond the usual 3 months allowed for tourists, you'll need to move VERY carefully here. It's very difficult to get leave to remain in the UK. And if the authorities discover that a person has lied at any stage of the process—or stolen somebody else's passport to travel on—it's practically assured they will be deported or refused entry.

    However ...and here's an interesting option ...if either of her parents is a British citizen, she will have automatic dual citizenship until she turns 21, I believe. (At that time, she needs to make up her mind which country she wants to stay in.) Which means she will have an easier time staying in the UK if she should want to. It will help if she's visited England before, and her passport is stamped with the details of the previous visit. You will need to research this option carefully as well, but it's certainly something to consider, depending on what you want to happen in your story.

    I'm speaking as an American who made this move to the UK myself 30 years ago. It was an incredibly fraught process then, and I managed to pull it off because I was planning to get married to a UK citizen who had a good-paying job at the time. (We had to prove that we were a 'real' couple, and not a marriage of convenience ...which was fun.) Nowadays the rules have changed so much I wouldn't have a hope. The amount of money a person has to earn themselves (working here) in order to stay in the UK is now something like £30,000 per year. It's complicated, but it's designed basically to put people off even trying to live here if they aren't citizens already. Getting married to a UK citizen is no guarantee you'll be able to stay. There are lots of other conditions you have to meet.

    I have since gone through the process of becoming a UK citizen, and I now have a UK passport. This means if I ever decide to 'go home' to the USA for a visit, I will need a visa to get in!

    As for buying the airline ticket to travel as a tourist and stay only 3 months, (and avoid the credit card issue) you COULD investigate her friend buying the ticket for her. Again, I don't know for sure how that works, but I'd look into it. (She will need to have a return ticket as well, to show at customs. They will ask to see it.)

    Keep in mind, though, that you can't just arrive in the UK without a penny to your name, even as a tourist. Research the amount of money you need to be able to show the customs people, because they will demand to see it. In other words, your character will need to demonstrate that she can support herself without working during her stay in the UK. If she could get hold of cash or traveler's cheques, that would probably work. You'll need to research how much money is needed to satisfy requirements. (Although traveler's cheques are also getting weird. I'm not sure how or if they work these days. Last time I traveled to the USA from the UK—where I now live—was in 2004, and I had no problem. However, I think they are less popular now that people use cards for everything.)

    She will also need to provide a full address of where she will be staying while in the UK. If she's visiting a friend, that's fine. She'll need to provide the friend's address. If she is staying in a hotel or B&B, she'll need to provide that address. The customs will ask her what she plans to be doing during her stay (in general) and this is no time to get cute with them! Technically, if she's over 18, she hasn't 'run away from home,' so that's not a problem. It will be a big problem if she's still a minor, though. And they WILL check.

    Good luck. It's possible to do this, but you will probably need to make quite a few adjustments in your plot to pull it off.
    I do think you'll need to think carefully about what you plan to write, as the whole story can become very ridiculous very quickly if you don't get these kinds of details right. I also think it won't be possible for her to travel on impulse. A great deal of pre-planning will be necessary to pull this off. If she's over 18 she could do the planning in secret, without her parents knowing what she's up to, but she will need to plan and get everything right first time. If she screws up she'll never leave the airport when she gets to England. She may not even get on the plane in the USA.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
  7. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    My wife and I met when I was 16 and she was 18. We decided to go on holiday to Egypt and I had to get my parents to write a letter for my wife to produce at the airport saying she was essentially my guardian. So you could get your teenager to write a fake note and befriend someone in the airport who is older.
    Saying that, this was 12 years ago so not sure with new security measures if this is still relevant.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Every country has different rules, though. She wants her character to go to England, not Egypt. It's quite a process. And you're right, 12 years can certainly make a difference. I can't believe how much has changed since I arrived here 30 years ago (this month.)
     
  9. Divorescent
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    Divorescent New Member

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    Yes, she does, but her sister got kicked out by her parents. She'd need to locate her sister... Thank you for the idea!!!
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I like that idea too. Just remember that you only have to come up with something plausible enough to satisfy the reader, who is already coming into the reading process willing to suspend disbelief. It's easy to get sidetracked (sometimes way too far sidetracked) by thinking every detail to death and wondering "Could this happen" or "Is this realistic." It's a matter of building the events of the story in a manner that the reader will accept.
     
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  11. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whether what I'm about to mention would work would depend on what kind of abusive her parents are. If they're forcing her to turn over every last bit of her Christmas money and the earnings from her part time job, you could be in trouble. And is she patient over the long haul and good at hiding her intentions to split? This isn't something that can be done on the spur of the moment.

    But:

    I got my first passport at age 15 when I went on a school trip to Mexico over Easter weekend. So it's perfectly possible she would already have one at 16. Just don't let her parents think about locking it up.

    As for the credit card . . . an ATM/debit card marked with the Visa or MasterCard logo can be used as a credit card. You'd have to check with your local bank to see if there are any use restrictions on bank accounts for minors, but that might be a possibility. Also, investigate online checking accounts for the same.

    I know from experience that she would be able to move money in and out of a passbook savings account without her parents' permission. There are online savings accounts that may offer the same facility.

    Does she have a college fund she can tap into? There are tax implications of taking money out of those for non-educational uses, but she wouldn't care about that under the circs. Investigate whether she'd have access or not, without a parent's co-signature.

    As a teenager, she may not be thinking past the three months' visitor's visa, she just wants to put space between her and Mommy and Daddy Dearest. How she copes after that may just be the story problem.

    I usually agree with @jannert around here, but I don't think it would work to make her 18. 18 is the legal age of majority in Massachusetts, so if she's that age she could move out of her parents' house, set up her own household, and probably get a restraining order on them if they threatened to haul her back. Not to mention that blinding off to another country without considering all the problems is something a mid-teen would do.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like all of those ideas. However, the problem will come at the other end, when she tries to get into Britain. If she's underage, traveling on a minor's passport, there will be restrictions. (Somebody - not me - needs to research this.) And if she has a passport and she's only 16, it will BE a minor's passport.

    I also suspect lots of these things would be checked at the other end, before she ever gets on the plane.

    It might make sense to research if anybody has ever been able to pull this off. And if they did, how did they do it?
     
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  13. KPMay
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    KPMay Member

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    Everything here is spot on. Hello fellow expat! :)
     
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  14. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    The issues which have been raised by others here seem like ideal obstacles for your character to overcome. How will she succeed in her efforts to escape her situation by overcoming these obstacles? That depends what lesson you want her to learn. Maybe she uses criminal methods (fake ID, stealing credit card to pay for ticket...) Or maybe she uses the cooperation of others to help her (perhaps her friend in England is able to buy the ticket for her and send it), or perhaps she tries to manipulate others to help her? Whichever methods you choose for her to use, and whatever the outcomes, you can use these obstacles and her attempts to overcome them to show something about your character and how she develops. It sounds like an interesting story :)
     
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  15. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Now you've got me curious: Does it become a minor's passport simply because the listed date of birth puts one under the age of majority? Or are there different markings these days?
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've no idea. That's something that needs some research, but I presume any date that shows the person is still underage would count as a minor's passport. Otherwise, what's the point?
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You're an expat too?
     
  18. KPMay
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    KPMay Member

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    Yep moved from the US to the UK two years ago. :)
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    :) I imagine you had a lot more hassle than I did 30 years ago. They've really tightened regulations. What's your story? It might help the OP on this thread to know what happens. My information will be more out of date than yours.
     
  20. KPMay
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    KPMay Member

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    Oh yeah, the paperwork and the cost were huge hurdles. I'll try and keep this short.. I'm not sure if it will be super relevant to OP, but I'll write it out anyway.

    Well, I met my now husband on the internet 5 years ago. We had a long distance relationship for a couple of years (we visited each other a few times as well) before we decided that I would move here and we would get married. We did go the marriage route, there were no other options for me visa-wise. After a *mountain* of paperwork and roughly £2000 (most to a scam lawyer, a story for another day) I finally received my visa in the mail. I had sold most of my belongings and managed to fit everything I owned into two large suitcases and a carry on bag. Next thing you know I'm saying goodbye to my family and flying over to the UK to live there. I was fucking terrified!
    Going through border control is a very very stressful event.. every time I was bombarded with questions, some of them personal in nature. What are you doing here, who are you staying with, what will you do for work, how much money do you have to sustain you, is your boyfriend forcing you to come here? All that and more.
    I did get through eventually, and now I'm married and living here on a temporary 2.5 year visa. I'll renew it again soon for another 2.5 years segment, and after that point I can apply for citizenship. For the first 6 months here I wasn't able to work so that was flippin awful, I'm one of those types that needs to work and keep myself busy.. But now I'm working (not in my chosen field, but that's again another long story) and living with my husband and our cat. :)

    So.. that's my story for now I suppose. After doing all the visa research and paperwork I feel like I do know a lot about the current visa pathways. Ask me anything!
     
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