There has been much confusion surrounding the amendments to the unbridged birth certificate (UBC) requirements for visitors coming to South Africa from abroad, as gazetted on November 30, and coming into effect on December 1.

The SA Department of Tourism is liaising with the airline industry, and will communicate further when the airlines have updated their systems and are ready to board passengers according to the amended regulations.

However, Iata has accepted these new regulations and has confirmed this in writing with the Department of Home Affairs. Iata has further confirmed that the amended regulations, which follow the practice of countries such as the UK and Canada, do remove the requirement for airlines to verify documentation of minor travellers [other than when they are travelling alone].

The Department of Tourism has offered this deconstruction of the UBC amendments,

Foreign minors – visa-exempt countries

Parents travelling with minors from visa-exempt countries will need the following documentation:

  • Copies of original documents are sufficient and need not be certified
  • Consent and authorisation in the form of a letter which needs not be notarised or be an affidavit
  • Children travelling with both parents need no extra documentation, however if there is a situation where the surname is different, carrying proof of parental relationship is advised
  • In the event of a minor not travelling with both parents, but travelling with an adult, other documentation may be requested and it is strongly advised – this could be in the form of a birth certificate and other supporting documents such as a letter of consent, court orders or death certificate(s) as appropriate. A period of 24 hours is provided for to acquire such documents on arrival if they are requested and are not in the traveller’s possession
  • In the event of a minor travelling alone, additional documentation must be carried
  • A birth certificate (copy) to satisfy the immigration processes should contain details of the parent(s)

 Foreign minors – countries where visas are required

  • The requirements for children travelling with only one parent or another adult from countries that require visas have not changed. This means that they have to produce the documentation on application for a visa, and a copy of a birth certificate will be required when applying for any child visa
  • Should the adult(s) travelling with a child on a visa change from what was stated on the visa application due to unavoidable short-term circumstances, the travelling adult(s) are also advised to carry the same documentation as above (for visa-exempt travellers)

Child travellers and accompanying adults will only be stopped and asked questions, and possibly be required to provide additional documentation in exceptional cases where there may be grounds for suspicion or in ‘high-risk situations’.

The statement published by the Department of Tourism reads: “The above is outlined in the September 25, 2018, press statement of the then Minister of Home Affairs, when he stated that ‘our immigration officials will only insist on documentation by exception – in high-risk situations – rather than for all travellers, in line with practice by several other countries’.”

Travel advice for trade and customers

  • Minor traveller documentation requirements are in line with international countries, including Canada and the UK.
  • If travelling with a child (under 18) and not the child’s parent, or may appear not to be the parent…it is recommended that one carries evidence of one’s relationship with the child and/or the reason why travelling with the child. This evidence could include copies of:
    • A birth or adoption certificate indicating relationship with the child
    • Divorce/marriage certificates if one is the parent but has a different surname to the child
    • A letter from the child’s parent/s giving authority for the child to travel with the adult and providing contact details if the guardian is not the parent

The new regulations are in line with the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee led by then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa which were finalised in October 2015.

Their recommendations were followed by the statement: “This would remove the obligation from airlines to verify documentation. Immigration officers will retain the discretion to, at random, request additional evidence and that suspicious individuals may be questioned and additional information sought on their circumstances and corroborated.”