As of today, 1 June 2015, all children under the age 18 who enter or leave South Africa will be required to have an unabridged birth certificate with their passport. This includes children travelling with one or both parents, children travelling with someone other than a parent, as well as children travelling on their own.
Intergate wants to help you make sense of this new regulation, especially if you are travelling to South Africa with your children soon. Below you’ll find some of the most common questions we’ve been asked, along with their answers.
Why is an unabridged birth certificate now necessary for travel to and from South Africa?
The Department of Home Affairs has stated that the changes in the regulations were made in an attempt to curb child trafficking. Child trafficking is indeed a huge problem in South Africa and while an unabridged birth certificate is not the ultimate solution, it could make a difference.
What is an unabridged birth certificate exactly?
An unabridged birth certificate is essentially a birth certificate that has not been shortened. It shows the particulars of the child as well as of the parents. An abridged birth certificate would only show the particulars of the child.
Please note that the unabridged birth certificate should be computerised, not hand-written, as per the regulations of the Department of Home Affairs.
What if my country of residence does not issue unabridged birth certificates?
Not all countries issue unabridged birth certificates. If you are travelling to South Africa from such a country, you must carry a letter issued by the competent authority in your country.
Please explain exactly what is required of me…
There are a few likely scenarios where children and travel are involved, so we will look at the most prominent ones. Please note that visas should also be produced as normally if required for your country when coming to South Africa.
- Child travelling with both parents
Where a child is travelling with both parents, an unabridged birth certificate and passport must be produced for the child. In the case of adopted children, the parents should produce proof of the adoption by means of an adoption certificate.
The exception here would be when both parents and the child are in possession of valid South African passports and South African visas. The reason for this is that the unabridged birth certificate would have been submitted as part of the visa application and thus it has already been proven that the parents and child or children are a family unit.
Intergate would however still advise you to carry an unabridged birth certificate with you when you travel, as the part of the legislation explained above is complicated and you may run into trouble. This would be circumvented if you can produce an unabridged birth certificate for each child.
- Child travelling with one parent only
If a child is travelling with only one of their parents, the parent with the child must produce a passport and the unabridged birth certificate, as well as an affidavit from the non-travelling parent giving permission for the child to travel with the other parent. The parent staying at home must also produce a court order giving the accompanying parent full parental responsibility.
- Children travelling with one parent where the other parent has passed away
Should one of the parents be deceased, a death certificate must be produced along with the unabridged birth certificate and passport.
- Single parent travelling with child
If the child’s unabridged birth certificate only reflects the name of one parent, parental consent from the absent parent is not required. If the other parent’s name does however appear on the birth certificate, they must give their consent in an affidavit. If the absent parent cannot be traced, a letter of special circumstances must be applied for.
- Child travelling with divorced or legally separated parent
Where the parent has been granted full parental responsibilities and rights, the unabridged birth certificate must be accompanied by a passport and the court order granting the responsibilities and rights to the parent.
If the parent has only been granted specific parental responsibilities and rights, it is necessary to produce the court order granting the responsibilities and rights as well as the consent of the other parent in an affidavit with the unabridged birth certificate.
- Child travelling with someone other than their parents
When a child is accompanied by an adult other than a parent, the parents or legal guardian must give their consent for the travel in an affidavit and supply the unabridged birth certificate. The person the child is travelling with must also be able to provide the contact details of the parents or legal guardian and copies of the identity documents and passports of the parents or legal guardian.
Where both the parents of the child is deceased and the child is travelling with a family member, the Director-General must approve such a person to enter or leave South Africa with the child. This affidavit may not be older than three months, dating from the date of travel.
- Child travelling on their own
A child who is travelling unaccompanied by a parent or adult requires a passport and an unabridged birth certificate, as well as a parental consent affidavit or court order signed by both parents or a legal guardian, including the contact details of the parent or legal guardian, stating that the child has their permission to travel.
In addition you will need a letter from the person the child will be staying with, showing contact numbers and the physical address of the place the child will be staying. The documentation should also include the name and contact details of the hosts, as well as certified copies of their identity documents or passports, visas or permanent residence permits.
Is there anything else I should know?
All documents must be dated within four months of the date of departure or entry. In addition, all documents must be original or certified copies of the original.
It is also good to know that it is advisable to apply for an unabridged birth certificate well in advance of your travel date to South Africa. The same goes for all the other documentation you may need. Initially this process could lead to a lot of frustration, so applying well in time will minimise the stress associated with international travel.
For more information, please do not hesitate to call either +27 (0) 21 424 2460 for our Cape Town office or +27 (0)11 234 4275 for our Johannesburg office. Alternatively, visit the Department of Home Affairs website.