According to the Daily Star, to stop child trafficking and sexual exploitation, parents who don't have the same last name as their children may be subjected to additional questioning by Border Force officers, aka the U.K.'s immigration and customs officers.
The U.K.'s Home Office—their government department for immigration and passports, among other things—made the announcement on their Twitter page on August 1. The tweet was accompanied by a graphic that said, "Families with different surnames may be asked questions to establish their relationship."
The tweet also told travelers that if their family does have different surnames, they should bring birth or adoption certificates to help get through passport control quicker.
The Daily Star reports other acceptable documents include "divorce or marriage certificates if you are the parent, but have a different surname to the child" or a "letter from the child’s parent/s giving authority for the child to travel with you and providing contact details if you are not the parent."
The following day, they explained their reasoning for the new rule, tweeting, "We have a duty to safeguard children and to prevent people trafficking, child sexual exploitation and other crimes. That is why Border Force officers sometimes need to ask additional questions. More information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/children-travelling-to-the-uk …"
While child trafficking is definitely a problem, many parents were outraged by the rule, particularly since these days, it's not uncommon for moms and dads to have a different last name than their kids. And absolutely no one enjoys waiting on line at the airport. One user replied to the original tweet, writing, "I am fundamentally against this. My husband and I have different surnames. And our son bears my husband's. Not unusual for parents to have different surnames in the 21st Century. Appalling stuff by @sajidjavid and the Home Office." Another wrote, "There’s no good reason for this. Different names have long been accepted as the norm in families."
Some pointed out how it will unfairly target women. One user wrote, "Just to clarify, women who chose not to take their husband's surname or have children with a partner they are not married to will be subject to increased border measures? This is what freedom looks like under a #Tory government? Straight out of #Gilead."
Another mentioned how the new rule would create more problems, writing, "This is a great way to lose important documents while traveling. Brilliant advice from the same department who will probably try to deport people later on when they have lost, say, a marriage certificate abroad after following this advice."
Meanwhile, others questioned why showing a passport isn't enough. One person wrote, "Seriously? I am not taking my entire family's birth certificates with me every time we go abroad. What exactly is it that you are trying to establish? Surely all that matters is that we have valid travel documents?"
Even though many people are not thrilled about the new rule, head of Woodcocks Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors family department, David Connor, thinks families need to keep the rule in mind anyway to protect themselves and/or their travel plans. He told the Daily Mirror, “People need to take extra caution when holidaying with children who don’t share their surname as they could unknowingly end up embroiled in a child abduction case, be refused past check-in or turned away at border control."