Travelling with children to and from SA: What you need to know

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  • Travelling with children to and from SA: What you need to know

    After Ebola, probably one of the top stories in travel-industry news has been the new immigration regulations in South Africa. Many have heard about them, but are unsure what they are all about. First off, the good news is that the implementation of this law has now been postponed to 1 June 2015, so this gives every traveller a chance to come to grips with the what, why and when of the new regulations.

    The what

    What is this new law all about? It seems quite simple – all minors (which in South Africa are classified as children under the age of 18 years) will be required to produce an unabridged birth certificate during travel. This document does not replace the child’s passport. On top of that, the child also requires a letter from both parents, or guardians, giving permission for the child to travel with the relevant adults. This is not only needed for South African citizens who are travelling internationally, but also for anyone of any nationality entering South Africa.

    But what is an unabridged birth certificate? It is simply a birth certificate from the relevant country’s authorities that lists and confirms the particulars of the child’s parents. For South Africans who recently became parents, the good news is that these certificates have been issued automatically since March 2014.

    The why

    Is there some sort of reasoning behind this new law? It is mainly all about curbing child-trafficking in and out of South Africa. And although this is a good cause, the problem is that the implementation of such a law has many feeling that the law-abiding citizens are (once again) being punished, rather than the criminals. In practice, it means a lot more administration for law-abiding citizens and criminals alike, so you can see how it is both good and bad.

    The when

    When is this all taking effect? The initial date for implementation was 1 July 2014. It was then moved to 1 October 2014. But the new law was not well received by the travel and tourism industry, and so the date was again moved to 1 June 2015. The main reasons for the outcry against the new regulations were the short notice for those who already had travel plans, and the fact that it allowed not nearly enough time to spread the word to the travel industry in general. In addition, it means that international travellers also have to figure out how they will attain the required birth certificate.

    For those of you travelling with children to and from South Africa this year, the good news is that you don’t need to worry about the new law. But it may still be a good idea to get what is needed in advance, especially if you are planning to go overseas next year. It is always better to be ahead of the game when it comes to travel plans.