Travelling to South Africa – the REVISED Unabridged Birth Certificate Regulations

13 February 2017

The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has scrapped the Unabridged version of South Africa’s Birth Certificate and now only issues Birth Certificates displaying the details of both parents. All children under age 18 (minors) travelling into and out of South Africa must now travel with their own passport that shows the details of both parents and is set to be the main travel document.

Many holidaymakers coming to South Africa find this all really confusing. This information and guide are given in an attempt to make your travel to the country a whole lot easier. For detailed advice and expert travel resources, as well as more details on how we can assist you with your holiday please contact one of our knowledgeable consultants on 27 21 7855498 or make an email enquiry here.

Between 1995 and March 2013, when a child was born in South Africa, they were issued with an abridged birth certificate that showed only their mother’s name. Children born after March 2013 have been issued with an unabridged certificate showing the names of both parents. Now, the birth certificate automatically shows the names of both persons and is simply called The Birth Certificate.

When the new Unabridged Birth Certificate Regulations were issued in 2015, they caused an uproar amongst travellers entering and leaving South Africa with children under age 18 (minors). Citizens and visitors had to produce their child’s unabridged birth certificates plus mountains of paperwork to allow their children into the country. Some countries don’t even issue such birth certificates. The confusion was rife and the DHA phones rang off the hook. Thanks to input from all concerned, including the Department of Tourism, the DHA has been forced to revise these regulations.

REVISED Birth Certificate Regulations for South Africans since November 2016

South Africans travelling with minor children require passports AND the complete birth certificate detailing both paternal and maternal information as this remains the document needed at customs to ensure smooth travel procedures. If a visa has been issued to a minor, the birth certificate would have been provided as part of the application process.

Where a birth certificate has been applied for and cannot be produced or be obtained at the time of travel, travellers need to obtain an official letter stating this fact from the nearest Home Affairs office before travelling through a port of entry.

Facts you should Know:

  • As from 1 November 2016, the Department of Home Affairs has changed the terminology for the Unabridged Birth Certificate. It is now simply called the birth certificate as they have done away with the differences between the old abridged (pre-2013) and the new unabridged birth certificate (post-2013) versions.
  • South African citizens must still apply for birth certificates when they apply for child passports. From now on, the DHA will print the details of parents in the children’s passports and when those parents travel with those children, they will not have to take their birth certificates with them.
  • Every traveller entering and leaving South Africa, however, still needs to fulfil the requirement for valid passports, and visas where applicable. If one parent is not travelling with the children, then he/she must provide an affidavit confirming parental consent to such travel.

The DHA has stated that the birth certificate is still required. They urge that travellers should not assume that if they have their children’s passports in order that they don’t need their birth certificates. In addition, travellers from visa-exempt countries should remain cautious and just arrive with all the necessary documentation to avoid any changes to their travel plans.

History of the 2015 Unabridged Birth Certificate Immigration Law

South Africa tabled a new immigration law that came into effect as of 1 June 2015, affecting all travellers under the age of 18 (children, called minors). The South African Department of Home Affairs expected all minor passengers who were travelling domestically and internationally across her borders to travel with an Unabridged Birth Certificate. And they expected all minors to produce this document WITH their passport when entering or leaving South African ports of entry, showing the details of both parents. The reason for this very complicated law was simple: South Africa is concerned about the rise in human trafficking across its borders – every year, some 30 000 children (minors), are illegally moved through South African borders, most of them being less than 14 years of age.

But the complexities were huge and thousands of travellers changed their South African destinations to other more exotic countries. The Department of Tourism called urgent meetings with the DHA to resolve the matter. They argued that More than 13 000 people were denied boarding to South Africa between June 2015 and July 2016 and that, if one tourist spends an average of R13 000 per day in South Africa, the country lost more than R7.51 billion as a result.

The DHA, therefore, agreed to alter the law to make it easier for all travellers with children but to still maintain the safety of all children crossing into and out of South Africa.

In a nutshell, parents should all take heed and get the necessary documentation for their children as soon as possible. This will save them the hassle of doing it in a rush one day, and having to re-read the rules and regulations later on. Do it now if your children are minors! For more information, contact your local tour operator or the Department of Home Affairs.

Don’t despair! We can give you clear advice on how to deal with this and plan amazing holidays for you to all Southern African countries.

Click here to make an enquiry.