South Africa clarifies new rule on traveling minors

8 Jun 15

SOUTH AFRICA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has issued new guidelines on its requirement that minors travel with an unabridged birth certificate and other relevant documents.

What does the change mean? The new guidelines provide exemptions to the rule for minors with valid South African visas; minors who entered South Africa before June 1; minors in direct transit at an international airport; and minors traveling with parents from countries such as India, where parents’ particulars are endorsed in the child’s passport. However, because of ongoing confusion over enforcement of the new rule, adults traveling with minors should be prepared to produce an unabridged birth certificate if possible even if an exemption applies.

  • Implementation time frame: The guidelines were posted to DHA’s website May 26, just days before the new requirement’s June 1 effective date. Discussions about the requirement and its implementation are ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Adults traveling with minors to or from South Africa.
  • Impact on processing times: Adults traveling with minors to or from South Africa should leave extra time to obtain documents and any necessary certifications or translations, even if an exemption applies to their situation.
  • Business impact: The new requirement has drawn fire from groups concerned about a negative effect on tourism and business in South Africa.
  • Next Steps: BAL will continue monitoring the implementation of the new requirement.

Background: The requirement that minors travel with unabridged birth certificates and other relevant documents is part of last year’s immigration overhaul and was initially postponed to give parents and government agencies sufficient time to prepare.

The requirement is intended to crack down on child trafficking and other illicit activities, but has been criticized by groups concerned about its impact on tourism and business in South Africa. It took effect June 1, however, days after DHA released guidelines outlining the exemptions described above. There is no set time limit on the exemption for minors who traveled to South Africa before June 1. However, minors who stay long enough in South Africa are required to obtain a visa, which requires an unabridged birth certificate. The length of time a minor can remain in South Africa without a visa depends on nationality.

For the time being, the South African government is relying largely on airlines to enforce the new requirement at the point of departure for South Africa. It is not clear that all parties responsible for enforcing the new requirement understand the rules and exemptions.

BAL Analysis: Due to possible confusion, BAL recommends that those traveling with minors be prepared to produce an unabridged birth certificate and other relevant documents even if an exemption applies. Otherwise, travelers who encounter airline officials or migration agents unfamiliar with the exemptions may face significant travel delays. BAL will continue to monitor the implementation of the new requirement, including any possible changes to the current rules or enforcement trends.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in South Africa. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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