Newly-appointed South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba is off to a shaky start. Under the auspices of curbing child trafficking (and the “efficient management of migration”), Home Affairs has revised their travel regulations to require anyone travelling into or out of South Africa with children to produce each child’s unabridged birth certificate.
The regulations were originally intended to come into effect on 1 July 2014, just a few days into the school holidays. Not surprisingly, the backlash was so severe that it took only a few days for the deadline to be extended to October instead. Home Affairs have postponed the implementation phase to 1 October 2014 to iron out issues and allow for travel during the upcoming school holidays in June.
Even with the extension, the regulation is likely to be challenged, as it is by all accounts, unrealistic and potentially detrimental to the South African tourism industry. Here are a few key facts:
- The new revisions would mean that parents travelling into or out of South Africa with their children would need to provide an unabridged birth certificate (including the details of both parents) for each child.
- This applies even when both parents are travelling with their children.
- When children are travelling with adults other than their parents, the adults must produce affidavits from the parents, to prove that they have permission for the children to travel.
- Guardians could also be asked to produce a court order granting them legal guardianship, and/or a death certificate of the parent on the unabridged birth certificate, in the event that the parent is deceased.
- When only one parent is travelling with a child, he or she must produce an unabridged birth certificate, as well as an affidavit from the other parent.
- These rules apply to South Africans travelling abroad, and foreigners coming into the country.
- Unabridged birth certificate applications can take a minimum of six weeks to process and in many instances – much longer.
More questions than answers
The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) were one of the more vocal critics of the new regulations. CEO Otto de Vries said in a statement, “Our understanding is that until recently, unabridged birth certificates were not issued automatically and that people have to apply for them. This can be a lengthy process, and this is a major concern for our travellers.”
He added: “Stakeholders such as travel agents, airlines, tour operators and airport staff worldwide need appropriate notice in order to be educated on such changes in regulations, we can only foresee confusion and negative outcomes for the South African travel industry.”
These questions have been raised in the past few days by ASATA, online commentators and other organisations:
- What happens if adults are travelling on a local cruise?
- Can a certified copy of the unabridged certificate be used instead of the original?
- If custody has been granted to one parent and that parent travels often with the child, will a new affidavit from the other parent be required each time.
- Have the new laws been communicated to all stakeholders overseas?
- With forgery rife, how can the government (or a travel agent for that matter) be sure that the affidavit and/or birth certificate are legitimate?
- Will the police officer check everything properly when signing the affidavit?
- What if one or more parents are unreachable and not part of the children’s lives?
- If a passport can be forged, can a birth certificate be forged too?
- Are the documents not at risk of being lost?
- What about school sports or educational tours?
- What if the children are – for instance – US citizens, but their father is from South Africa. Do they need unabridged birth certificates?
Effect on the tourism industry
Another concern raised by the Board of Airline Representatives of SA (BARSA) is the potential loss of revenue for the country, if the new law is enforced.
“Based on 2013 numbers, 536 000 foreign visitors could be denied travel, and conservatively, the lost income to South Africa from these high-value visitors could be over R6.8bn annually, inevitably leading to job losses in the South African tourism sector,” said Chief Executive June Crawford.
How do you feel about the new regulations? Would you have been affected had the 1 July deadline remained? Tell us in the comments section.
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