TravelLaw_ChildrenSouth Africa’s tourism industry is gripped by apprehension as new visa regulations come into effect in the country.


  • The new regulations which came into effect on Monday, stipulate that foreigners who want to visit South Africa must apply for visas in person at South African embassies abroad
  • Parents and guardians travelling with minors must be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate showing both parents’ details
  • The Department of Home Affairs says there is no cause for alarm



The new requirements stipulate that foreigners who want to visit SA must apply for visas in person at South African embassies abroad.

Visitors will also need to have their biometric data captured at an embassy.

Parents and guardians travelling in or out of the country with minors, must be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate showing both parents’ details.

This condition applies to children 17 years old and under.

Until early 2013, when a child was born in South Africa, they were issued as standard with an abridged birth certificate that showed only their mother’s name. Children born since then have been issued with an unabridged certificate showing the names of both parents.


Related requirements

Foreign children travelling to South Africa will need to carry with them a legal document, issued by the relevant authority in their home country, containing information similar to South Africa’s full birth certificate.

South African children travelling abroad need to carry an original birth certificate.

According to Africa Check, if both parents are not travelling with the child more documents are needed when entering the country:

  • When only one parent is travelling with a child: The parent staying at home must provide an affidavit providing consent to the child travelling with the other parent, as well as copy of their identity document or passport, Pretoria immigration attorney Julian Pokroy explained to Africa Check.
  • When couples are divorced: The Immigration Amendment Act is not entirely clear on the requirements if parents are divorced. Pokroy suggested that a certified copy of the divorce order should be carried in addition to the letter of consent from the other parent and a copy of their identity document. If the parent not travelling with the child has refused to give consent, then the other parent will have to get a court order, he said.
  • When one parent has died: If one of the parents has died, a certified copy of the death certificate must be taken along.
  • When the father is unknown: The mother will need to show an affidavit saying that she is solely responsible for the child, said Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesman for the Minister of Home Affairs.
  • When parents are the same sex: The full birth certificate allows for same-sex parents to travel with their children. “This is called A and B parents,” Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba tweeted recently.
  • When children are travelling without their parents: The Immigration Amendment Act states that the child must carry an affidavit from parents confirming that they have permission to travel without them – whether alone, or with a relative, school group or friends – as well as copies of the parents’ identity documents and contact details. When travelling with a relative or another adult, a copy of the unabridged birth certificate can be used.
  • When a child is travelling alone to South Africa: The child must carry a letter from the person that will be receiving him in South Africa, containing the person’s address and contact details, as well as a copy of the host’s identity document or passport. In this case, the Immigration Amendment Act makes no mention of carrying a birth certificate.

These requirements are part of large-scale changes to South Africa’s immigration laws that came into effect a year ago. Following pleas from the tourism sector, Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba extended the requirement for children until June 2015 to afford parents more time to prepare.

Government says the change is necessary to combat child trafficking. Others have complained that it will not deter criminals and will hurt tourism.



If both parents are travelling with valid passports and visas, an unabridged certificate is not required. That, according to the South African Home Affairs Department, is because it would have been presented on application for a passport.

CEO of the Association of Southern Africa Travel Agents, Otto de Vries is not happy with the new restrictions, “The one side is the unabridged birth certificates and the other side is the biometric visas.  Biometric visas are indeed best practice; however, in order to implement it, you have to have the machinery in place.”

“In terms of the unabridged birth certificates, this is a unique requirement. SA is the only country in the world that requires children under the age of 18 to carry with them above and beyond  passport and a visa, should they be required,  an unabridged birth certificate,” de Vries argued.


No cause for alarm

But the Director General of the South African Department of Home Affairs, Mkuseli Apleni, disagrees.

Travelling with minors
Parents and guardians travelling with minors must be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate showing both parents’ details

Apleni said he could not understand claims that the new requirements were unique and not applicable elsewhere or that it would have an effect on tourism and the economy.

“Our regulations were benchmarked even with countries attracting more tourists.

“South African citizens are also required to have these documents when going to some countries of the world,” the Director General said.

“It was also due to requirements expected of our citizens by other countries that we decided to move towards issuing the unabridged birth certificate with the child’s and parents’ particulars in it,” he explained.



However, there are still reservations.

A South African resident, Ray Jones, said in reaction to the news.

The South African Industry is going to go Flat, as people will no longer be able to get these Visa`s. My sister is 74, a regular visitor and lives in North Wales. The only SA Embassy is in Trafalgar Square in London, so there is no way she is going to travel 6 hours each way, plus the Cost of Food and Transport. Now let`s say we get a million people a year here from Britain over a year and they all have to go to the SA Embassy in London. With 250 working days in one year, that`s 4000 people per day. What a load of nig nogs,” Jones said.




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