South Africans have been in uproar over the new Immigration Act, which has recently been passed. It stipulates that anyone travelling to South Africa (or through it) with children under 18 years must show a full unabridged birth certificate (that means both parents full names need to appear on the birth certificate), as well as a valid passport by the 1st of October 2014.
This has left many families travelling with kids feeling panicked as the summer holidays for South Africans are just around the corner. Whilst babies born in Europe, the UK or the US automatically receive an unabridged birth certificate at birth, this is not the case in South Africa. Reports suggest that applying for an unabridged birth certificate is a lengthy process and could take anything up to 8 weeks to be processed or even much more! This causes South African families much distress and is, of course, the reason why so many families are up in arms. Whilst European and US families have the required document, they may not have been aware of the fact that they would need to show this on entering South Africa.
A spokesperson for Home Affairs has confirmed that they have decided to take the imminent school holidays into account and that they would postpone this new regulation to come into effect as of 1 October 2014. They also confirmed that a certified copy of the unabridged certificate would suffice, and there would be no need to produce the original document.
Says the CEO of ASATA (the Association of South African Travel Agents) Otto de Vries: “Stakeholders such as travel agents, airlines, tour operators and airport staff worldwide need appropriate notice in order to be educated on such changes in regulations, we can only foresee confusion and negative outcomes for the South African travel industry.” De Vries recommends that all passengers travelling with children under 18 flying into South Africa take note of this regulation and ensure that they have all the necessary paperwork to hand to avoid delays and disappointment in their travel plans.
The new immigration law has been put into effect to try to curb the spiralling global trend of increased child trafficking and child abduction, and seeks to ensure that the child is travelling with its biological parents or appointed guardians. If the youngster is travelling with only one parent, they will have to show the unabridged birth certificate, as well as an affidavit from the other parent (whose name appears on the unabridged birth certificate) or court order granting them full legal guardianship which proves that they are authorised to travel with this particular child. In the event of the child travelling without either one of its biological parents, a copy of the passports or identify documents of both parents, as well as an affidavit and the unabridged birth certificate is required.
When asked how immigration officials would verify unabridged birth certificates in foreign languages at the airport, the spokesperson for Home Affairs had this to say: “A person’s name is spelled the same on a passport and birth certificate, regardless of the language. The unabridged birth certificate is to ensure that the child is travelling with the awarded parents or guardians. For this reason, if a letter has been written to give approval for a child to travel with another adult, this documentation should be provided in English. We would then check the person’s name and verify it against the passport and unabridged birth certificate.”
We urge all our clients to please take note of these new regulations which come into effect as of 1 October 2014 and to have all the necessary documents with them on entering South Africa. We would hate for you to have the start of your holiday spoilt by missing paperwork!