Since 2015 South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has had regulations in place affecting families travelling with children under 18. This included providing the unabridged birth certificate of each child under 18 (showing details of both parents), and consent from the other parent if only one parent is travelling with the child. Since November 2019, these regulations have been relaxed.
Two parents travelling with children under 18
- For international parents travelling with a child under 18 years of age, they no longer need an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) for the child if the child has a foreign passport. Only a passport is needed.
- South African parents travelling with a child on a South African passport still need to show an unabridged birth certificate, particularly when leaving the country.
- The UBC is a complete birth certificate that shows the details of both parents. Bring the original document. A certified copy (certified as true copy of original by commissioner of oaths, less than 3 months old) is supposedly acceptable, however there have been several cases where a certified copy was not accepted by the airline, so it is best to bring the original UBC.
- The child also needs a valid passport, of course (with at least 2 blank pages and expiring more than 6 months after return date).
- Depending on the country of origin, the child may also need a visa to visit SA (not needed for the US, UK, Australia, Canada and most European countries).
For South African parents only: one parent travelling with a child under 18
- If only one parent is travelling with a South African child, an unabridged birth certificate is needed, in addition to passport.
- A Parental Consent Affidavit (PCA) is needed from the other parent, giving permission to travel. (Must be an affidavit, not just a letter, less than 3 months old). Use the recommended wording for the PCA, available from the Home Affairs website.
- In a case of death, divorce or separation where the consent of the other parent is not possible, a valid supporting document needs to be provided (such as death certificate, court order granting custody, etc). You may have to apply for special permission in advance if the other biological parent cannot or will not give consent, or if you are not in touch.
Another adult (not the parent) travelling with a child under 18
- The UBC is required if the child has a South African passport.
- A Parental Consent Affidavit from both parents or legal guardian, less than 3 months old.
- If the PCA is only from one parent, supporting documentation to show that parent has sole legal custody, or death certificate if applicable, etc.
- Certified copies of ID or passport of both parents or legal guardians (certified by commissioner of oaths, less than 3 months old).
- Contact details of parents or legal guardians.
- Adoption papers if applicable.
It took four years of constant lobbying for the government to relax their stance on unabridged birth certificates for foreign children. Hopefully the requirements for South African children will also be relaxed soon.
About the author
Onne Vegter is the managing director of Wild Wings Safaris. He has a deep love for Africa's people, wildlife and natural heritage. Onne has travelled to most of Africa's top safari destinations and his writing is based on years of personal experience in the safari industry. Follow him on Twitter at @OnneVegter.