Home Affairs shelves new travel requirements for children - for now

SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

The new requirement of an Unabridged Birth Certificate for all children travelling to and within South Africa's borders, as well as written permission, has been postponed until 1 June 2015, says Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.

This refers to the requirements that children be in possession of an Unabridged Birth Certificate and have written permission from both parents or guardians authorising the child's travel. The certificate is expected to assist in the safety of children, including their protection from child trafficking, abduction and kidnapping.

The immigration regulations were announced in May and the provision for an unabridged birth certificate was set to come into effect on 1 October 2014.

Ahead of the decision to postpone the new requirement, the Minister met with Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom and stakeholders in the tourism and aviation industry.

He said the stakeholders alerted him to the fact that there was not enough time to contact missions abroad and travel operators to communicate the new requirements, as well as parents did not have much time to acquire the requested documents before their planned travels.

Addressing media in Cape Town, Minister Gigaba explained that the postponement was in light of the upcoming peak travel periods for families in December and January for the festive season and April for Easter. “A postponement would greatly assist travellers and the sectors as a whole.

“Having taken all of this into account, we have granted a postponement of these two particular requirements, the Unabridged Birth Certificate and written permission to June 1st 2015,” he said.

He explained that the new immigration regulations were introduced to improve the ability to manage immigration effectively.

He said during the postponement, the Deputy Director General for Immigration Services, Jackie McKay, will work intensively with industry stakeholders to ensure accurate information is available to all prospective travellers accompanying children all around the world, and allow those travellers time to gather the necessary documents.

Minister Gigaba said the department will also heighten vigilance at all the country’s ports of entry during the postponement.

“To ensure that the security of children is not undermined during this period, our officials will be on heightened alert, and will use other means, including additional screening, vetting and interviews as necessary, to ensure all travelling children are authorized to do so,” the minister said.

Unabridged Birth Certificate

While the requirements will be the same for South Africans and citizens of other countries, for foreigners’ purposes, an Unabridged Birth Certificate is merely a birth certificate from the responsible authority in their country which lists the particulars of the child’s parents.

“In the instance where this information is contained on the child’s passport, this too shall be acceptable,” the Minister said.

The department said the implementation of the regulations should not affect South African children born from 3 March 2013 onwards, as the department began issuing Unabridged Birth Certificates, on-the-spot, for all children whose births were registered from that date.

“Therefore the population of children/minors that will be affected by the implementation of these regulations would be children born between 1996 and February 2013,” the department said.

According to the department, approximately 17 million children were born during this period. “Out of this population, approximately 1.1 million have been issued with valid SA passports,” the Minister said.

The postponement is aimed at encouraging citizens to apply well in advance and obtain the required Unabridged Birth Certificates for the minors/children they intend traveling with.

Between now and the implementation date of the regulation, citizens who apply for passports in respect of minors/children will be encouraged by front line officials to apply for Unabridged Birth Certificates for such minors. –SAnews.gov.za

 Caption: Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba. Image: GCIS.