Families face ruined festive season holidays after lengthy unabridged birth certificate wait

2015-11-30 21:15 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town – The December holidays will soon be in full swing, and while for many this marks a joyous time spent with family and friends, some holidaymakers are in agony.

Grandparents, grandchildren and adoptive parents alike are unsure if they will be able to embark on their travels as planned, all due to changes to SA visa regulations.

Initially the rules required both local and international families to travel with unabridged birth certificates for their minors, but at the end of October this was amended to exempt international visitors from this requirement - yet the changes have not been put into effect yet. 

As an example, award-winning actor Idris Alba was recently refused entry to South Africa for not having the necessary documentation for his daughter.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has since stated that the implementation of cabinet concessions to the immigration regulations "would take time and is only expected to take place after January 2016".

SEE: Home Affairs twitter spat highlights concern about SA's visa rule changes implementation

Gigaba said that as Elba was a British national, he did not have to apply for a visa and therefore only found out when he was told by an airline that he could not travel with his daughter without the proper birth certificate and permission from the mother.

"The principle is [that] no matter how important or famous you are, South Africa has sovereign laws which apply to all," Gigaba said.

"If we proceed carelessly without that legal instrument, we will be undermining our own legislation and placing ourselves in a constitutionally compromising situation for which we will be legally liable."

But  unlike Alba, many holidaymakers who want to travel in or out of SA in the upcoming holidays could unfortunately have their plans dashed through no fault of their own - as they've followed the necessary processes and then some. 

Uncertainty over India

One concerned parent, who asked to be kept anonymous, shared her dilemma with Traveller24.

“My children are travelling to India on 10 December this year. I applied for their unabridged certificates on 11 August 2015.

“My daughter’s was approved and printed and my son’s application has not been processed.

“I was asked to reapply, and did so on the 16 November. When I called the Home affairs call centre on 25 November I was told that the certificate is still not ready.

She said she has phoned the DHA numerous times in order to get her child’s documentation, but the department keeps telling her to phone back another day.  

“Time is running out for me now…”

16-month wait

Another local, Ebrahim Dhai also shared his frustrating experience.

“We applied for an unabridged birth certificate for my granddaughter in August last year. Sixteen months later, the certificate has not been issued.

Dhai also stated that they have made numerous visits to Home Affairs and made “countless telephone calls”, but have yet to receive feedback.  

FYI: SA’s revised visa rules – what you need to know

The department of Home Affairs’ Thabo Mokgola told Traveller24 they “acknowledge that this is a very challenging situation, but that no person has been unable to travel because of the laws”.

Mokgola said those who are concerned about their holiday plans should contact their respective Home Affairs departments, who will then ensure the necessary documents are issued before holiday plans commence.

While some travellers are concerned about the travel plans they’ve already made, others are worried about future trips and family reunions.

‘Grandchildren in a quandary’

Nick Swanepoel emailed Traveller24 asking for advice regarding his adopted granddaughters.

“Our son and his wife, both South African citizens who live and work in Kenya, have legally adopted two Kenyan girls who were abandoned at birth, over four years ago.

As Kenya does not issue birth certificates for abandoned children, the girls cannot have unabridged birth certificates to travel with.

“My grandchildren are in a quandary. Kenya does not issue birth certificates and South Africa will not allow them back into the country without them. There is no open door for them.”

The Department of Home Affairs said in a statement that they will extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to 6 months, and ensure that principals can issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours during the interim period from 1 November to 31 January 2016.

ALSO READ: FEDHASA calls on DHA for clearer communication on implementation of visa changes

What to do if you are a South African who has applied for an unabridged birth certificate that has not been issued yet:

- Check-back with the department of home affairs you applied with to inform them that your travel date is pending.

- If the birth certificate is not going to be issued in time, ask them to issue you with an official letter stating you have applied for the document, supplied the necessary information and are waiting for it to be issued. 

- Keep this document together with your DHA issued receipt for the application along with all you other travel documents for inspection at the ports of entry your will be using. 

Also see: 17 things you need to know about travelling with minors in SA