Traveling abroad with Children

From 1 June 2015, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa has required all passengers under 18 to travel with an Unabridged Birth Certificate. Under the new law, all minors under the age of 18 years are required to produce, in addition to their passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate (showing the particulars of both parents) when exiting and entering South African ports of entry. It is the responsibility of passengers to ensure their children have the correct documentation or risk being denied boarding.

The new law is being enforced by airlines and immigration officials across the board (land, sea and air). Although airlines and travel agents are doing everything to keep passengers informed, ultimately it is passengers’ responsibility to know what is required of them. In all cases an Unabridged Birth Certificate is required for minors departing and arriving in South Africa; they are not allowed to travel without it. In cases where the Unabridged Birth Certificate is in a language other than English, it must be accompanied by a sworn translation issued by a competent authority in the country concerned.

Children traveling with both parents

Parents are required to produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child. Adopted children to provide proof of adoption by means of an adoption certificate. Note: these regulations apply to all travelers, foreign as well as south African; on both departure and arrival. In the case of foreign countries which do not issue unabridged birth certificates, a letter to this effect issued by the competent authority of the foreign country should be produced. All documents must be original or copies certified as a true copy of the original by a commissioner of oaths or the equivalent commissioning authority, should commissioners of oath not be a practice in the country concerned.

Children traveling with only one parent

When traveling with only one parent, additional information is required by the parent accompanying the child:

  1. Such parent must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child
  2. Consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent registered as a parent on the birth certificate of the child authorizing him or her to enter into or depart from the Republic with the child he or she is travelling with
  3. A court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child, if he or she is the parent or legal guardian of the child; or
  4. Where applicable, a death certificate of the other parent registered as a parent of the child on the birth certificate;
  5. Legally separated parents should also provide a court order when the other parent does not give consent.

Provided that the Director-General may, where the parents of the child are both deceased and the child is travelling with a relative or another person related to him or her or his or her parents, approve such a person to enter into or depart from the Republic with such a child. Explanatory Note: The affidavit may not be older than 3 months, dating from the date of travel.

Children traveling without either parent

The following is required

  1. Proof of consent from one of or both his or her parents or legal guardian, as the case may be, in the form of a letter or affidavit for the child to travel into or depart from the Republic: Provided that in the case where one parent provides proof of consent, that parent must also provide a copy of a court order issued to him or her in terms of which he or she has been granted full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child;
  2. A letter from the person who is to receive the child in the Republic, containing his or her residential address and contact details in the Republic where the child will be residing;
  3. A copy of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive the child in the Republic; and
  4. The contact details of the parents or legal guardian of the child.

Where a person is traveling with a child who is not his or her biological child

The following needs to produced in this regard:

  1. A copy of the unabridged birth certificate of the child;
  2. An affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child confirming that he or she has permission to travel with the child;
  3. Copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian of the child; and
  4. The contact details of the parents or legal guardian of the child

Provided that the Director-General may, where the parents of the child are both deceased and the child is travelling with a relative or another person related to him or her or his or her parents, approve such a person to enter into or depart from the Republic with such a child.

Application process for Unabridged Birth Certificates

  • Apply at your nearest Home Affairs office where your Biometric information will be verified.
  • Take your ID book along, as well as your child’s ID number.
  • All documents submitted must be originals or certified copies.
  • The Unabridged Birth Certificate costs R75.
  • It can take up to 8 weeks to acquire an Unabridged Birth Certificate from the date of application.

Since last year, Unabridged Birth Certificates have been issued automatically for newborns. If your infant was born after 14 March 2013, you should be in possession of a UBC. Certified copies of documents are usually valid for 6 months only. Minors travelling in school groups or with their grandparents are not exempt from the requirement.

Who is exempt?

  • The new law does not apply to children travelling domestically (E.g. Between Johannesburg and Cape Town).
  • Minor passengers on a ‘Cruise to Nowhere’. For example a cruise that departs Durban Harbour and returns to Durban Harbour, or a cruise that goes from Durban Harbour to Cape Town Harbour.

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