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Beware if Children Travelling to South Africa
09 November 2014
Two items of interest, each with a South African connection. One may be a real trap for travellers.
On 1 June 2015 new immigration regulations were put into effect in South Africa. These may have wide ranging implications for clients with children under the age of 18.
The regulations apply equally to South Africans and to non South Africans so the net is very wide.
Here are the new requirements:
If both parents are travelling with the child:
- each child must have his or her own passport, no matter how young the child; and
- produce an unabridged birth certificate for the child. We often here use extracts from the birth register, but the short form will not be acceptable.
If only one parent is travelling with the child then that parent must produce in addition to the passport and unabridged birth certificate:
- an affidavit of written consent from the other parent registered on the birth certificate authorising the travelling parent to come to or leave from South Africa with the child; or
- a court order granting the travelling parent full parental responsibilities and rights or full legal guardianship in respect of the child. This is very problematic because most Australian court orders, for example, will give parents equal shared parental responsibility.
If the other parent not travelling has died, you have to also provide a death certificate for that parent.
Where a person is travelling with a child who is not his or her biological child, and this of course extends to grandparents or other family members, in addition that person must provide:
- an affidavit from the parents confirming that the person has permission to travel with the child; and
- copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardians of the child;
- the contact details of the parents or legal guardians;
- and contact details of the person in whose care the child will be in South Africa.
If the child is unaccompanied the rules are even more stringent. This applies to any child crossing a South African border. The child must have and produce:
- proof of consent by way of letter of affidavit from one or both of the parents for the child to go into or leave South Africa. If only one parent provides proof of consent that parent must also provide a copy of a court order
- granting full parental responsibilities for the child;
- a letter from the person who is to receive the child in South Africa setting out residential address and contact details in South Africa where the child will live;
- copy of the identity documents/passports and visa/permanent resident permit of the person who is to receive the child in South Africa;
- the contact details of the parents or legal guardians of the child.
The rules do not apply to children in transit directly through South African at international airports.
The object of these rules is to stop trafficking in children. However, the means used to achieve this object are less than optimal. Some foreign countries do not issue unabridged birth certificates. A media statement issued by the South African Director General of Home Affairs has tried to clarify this and we can provide more details if they should be needed. Statements from the Minister have been contradictory.
Moreover all documents must be originals or copies certified by a Commissioner of Oaths or equivalent authority. Affidavits must be dated within three months of the date of departure or entry. The rules are even worse for adopted children.
Australian law already requires the written consent of the other parent, or a court order, where the relationship has broken down and there are any parenting orders in place. However, the form of written consent would not meet the test under the South African regulations, and neither would a court order in most cases, because it would be a rare court order that went further than necessary, which would simply be to permit the overseas travel sometimes subject to conditions.
It is clearly very important, in our shrinking world, that you are aware of this potential risk. It would be difficult for adults and catastrophic for children to be turned back at borders after a long flight, or onerous preparation for travel, and we would be happy to assist with either a referral to South African experitise, or in any court orders they may require from Australian courts.
Disclaimer: The articles on this page are correct at the time of writing but changes in the law or procedure may affect the accuracy of the information. Should you require any specific legal advice please contact
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