Cape Town - Department of Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni has issued a media statement that appears to backtrack on the contentious unabridged birth certificate requirement for children travelling in South Africa, which came into effect on Monday 1 June 2015.
Apleni said the certificate is not needed when both parents are travelling with valid passports and visas for themselves and their children.
"I must reiterate that where both parents are travelling with valid passports and visas the unabridged birth certificate is not a requirement since these additional documents would have been provided when applications were made for passports and visas," Apleni said in a statement on the department's website.
Up until last week, the understanding had been that whether a child was travelling with both parents, one parent, or a guardian, an unabridged birth certificate was required.
This echoes the concerns expressed by SA’s outbound travel, inbound tourism and airline industry associations – ASATA, SATSA and BARSA – who held a media briefing on Friday to discuss the key issues around the new requirements, including how biometric visas will affect the industry.
According to the organisations, the Standard Operating Procedures V5, issued by the Department of Home Affairs, makes no mention of the unabridged birth certificate being exempt if both parents are travelling with the children, nor if it needs to be translated into English.
The organisations also said the new immigration regulation brochure issued by the department one month prior to the implementation of these regulations is "ambiguous and unclear, raising more questions than answers".
READ: SA's new visa rules come into effect as backlog and roll-out plague tourism stakeholders
Apart from this Apleni also said that those who have applied for an unabridged birth certificate and are planning to travel, but have not yet received it, can go to any Home Affairs office to request a document that will allow them to travel with children through South African borders.
He added that since Tuesday, 26 May, the department had been pulling out all the stops and managed to shrink their backlog of 4 000 applications for the unabridged birth certificate to only 800.
"The 800 applications include where supporting documents are not available. We will continue sending reminders through text messages," said Apleni.
A summary of the new unabridged birth certificate requirement according to Apleni is as follows:
- No unabridged birth certificate required when parents have a valid visa and passport for their children and are travelling with their children. When a child is travelling with one parent who is
in possession of a valid visa and passport, a letter of consent is required
from the other parent.
- Minors who travelled prior to 1 June 2015 will not be required to produce supporting documents should the return leg of the journey occur after 1 June.
- No supporting documents will be required in the case of minors in direct transit at an international airport.
- In the case of countries that endorse the particulars of parents in children’s passports, or other official identification documents, these documents shall be acceptable for the purpose of establishing the identity of parents of the travelling minor. Example: Indian passports record the parents’ names on the passport. In this instance, the requirement of an unabridged birth certificate may be dispensed with.
- Where any parent/s recorded in an unabridged birth certificate or equivalent document, are unable to consent to the travel by a child due to recent death, or mental or physical disability, persons acting on behalf of the child/children may apply for a special dispensation in lieu of the parental consent affidavit by directing a request and full motivation, together with all supporting documents (example, treating medical practitioners certificate), to the Office of the Director-General of Home Affairs, at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org