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From 1 June 2015, all passengers under 18 years old will be required by law to travel with an Unabridged Birth Certificate. What does that entail, exactly? We’ve gone through some of the fine print to help you understand what’s going on, and how to make sure the new law doesn’t mess with your travel plans.

Useful tool: Child Visa Checklist by Drive South Africa

Update (20 November 2015): All About SA’s New Travel Laws

New laws for travelling with children

An Unabridged Birth Certificate will be required for minors departing and arriving in South Africa from 1 June 2015, and they will not be allowed to travel without it. The new law will be enforced by airlines and immigration officials across the board (land, sea and air) and it is the responsibility of passengers to ensure their children have the correct documentation.
Don’t delay applying for Unabridged Birth Certificates as the time frame for processing the documentation can vary greatly, from a few weeks to several months.


How does it work?

Unabridged birth certificates are issued upon request to persons who are:

  • South African citizens by birth or naturalisation
  • Children of South African citizens who were born abroad

In the case of one parent travelling with a child, the following must be produced:

  • An Unabridged Birth Certificate showing both parent’s details (in cases where the Unabridged Birth Certificate is in a language other than English, it must be accompanied by a sworn translation issued by a competent authority in the country concerned)
  • A recent affidavit (within the last three months) in which the absent parent gives consent for the child to travel, or a court order granting full parental responsibilities or legal guardianship of the child
  • a Death Certificate, in the case of one parent being deceased.

In the case of children being accompanied by adults who are not the biological parents, the following must be produced:

  • An Unabridged Birth Certificate showing both parent’s details.
  • A recent affidavit from the parents or legal guardians proving consent for the child to travel
  • Copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardians
  • The contact details of the parents or legal guardians

In the case of a child travelling as an unaccompanied minor, the following must be produced:

  • An Unabridged Birth Certificate showing both parent’s details
  • A recent affidavit from the parents or legal guardians proving consent for the child to travel, as well as contact details
  • Documentation relating to the person receiving the child in South Africa: a letter stating the person’s contact details and residential address, as well as a copy of his or her ID document, passport or residence permit.


Why is this law being implemented?

According to the Department of Home Affairs, approximately 30000 minors are trafficked through South African borders every year, half of whom are under the age of 14. It is hoped that this law will help curb human trafficking of minors.


Who is exempt?

  • Minors travelling on a domestic flight within South Africa
  • Minors travelling on a cruiseliner that stays within South Africa’s borders
  • Note: minors travelling in school groups or with their grandparents are NOT exempt from this requirement


How do I apply?

Since last year, Unabridged Birth Certificates have been issued automatically for newborns. If your child was born after 14 March 2013, you should be in possession of a UBC. If your child was born prior to 14 March 2013, you need to do the following as soon as possible:

  • Take your ID book, as well as your child’s ID number, to your nearest Home Affairs office where your biometric information will be verified.
  • All documents submitted must be originals or certified copies (note – certified copies of documents are usually only valid for 6 months)

Note: the Unabridged Birth Certificate costs R75 and it can take up to 8 weeks to process from the date of application.


Who do I contact?

Department of Home Affairs toll free hotline:
Tel: 0800 601 190,

Has this new law affected you in any way? Let us know in the comments section below.


  • This is not new. When we went on holiday in 2011 to Paris I had to have unabridged birth certificates for my kids and a letter etc, because we were meeting my hubby in Paris. I applied for my dauhters certificate in 2011 and I am still waiting for it to arrive!!! Fortunately I was able to use the handwritten copy that one gets at the time of birth. Eight weeks…my foot..this is South Africa. Parents be warned, apply now!!

    • Trina Davidson

      Yes, good luck everyone. I wish I had the handwritten one (Vault Copy). I have been waiting for my girls certificates for 7 years. I even reapplied in November 2014 nearly 7 months ago hoping to speed up the process. Alas, I am still waiting. I need the certificates to obtain their British Passports and my husband is travelling abroad with one child at the end of July. I am short of arriving in Pretoria myself to stage a sit in until I get them or better yet a hunger strike. Seriously, 8 weeks? I am so loosing the plot.


      Sorry to hear that you had to wait so long,my daughter immigrated to Australia,she applied for an abridged birth certificate before she left last year November and by January this year we received it and we could sent it by post to her.Our Home Affairs had a complete revamp and they are now on the ball.

  • Marcelle

    What ages are we talking about for children here…..when are they regarded as adult for purposes of travel/flying to another country?

    • Greg

      I found a document on the web which explains the new Childrens Act and it appears that a child is anyone under the age of 18.

      • Marcelle

        Thanks Greg….I figured as much. My daughter travels often to see her dad and the system gets complex when airlines allow her to fly unaccompanied at age 16 for example, yet now she will need a birth certificate and and and… head aches just thinking about all this, not just for us, but for all the drama this could create at airports for everyone. On the other hand, anything that aids with the eradication of child trafficking is welcome…..


    I applied for an unabridged birth certificate for my daughter as it was a requirement when she started high school. She will be matriculating next year and the school still hasn’t received the certificate. Anyhoo, we are leaving South Africa in the next few months so I will have to apply for all 3 my girls now already.

  • bianca

    hi, ive been waiting for 15 weeks for my daughters unabrdiged birth certificate. why is there such a big delay.

  • Amber

    Arrrrrgh what a schlepp. Will be travelling with my 3 out of the country on my own in December and now all this paperwork. Extra time at the border. Chance of losing all these documents. No man. OK well I get they are trying to help prevent these terrible things from happening but not sure that child traffickers won’t find other ways and means.

  • WIth the new law taking effect in October, Home Affairs better pull up their socks. It took us 4 months to get ours, with lots of back and forth emails and phone calls. I was basically begging for it….Those travelling later in the year, you better start applying now!!! And dont forget to nag them for it..

  • carla

    I waited 18 months for my child’s certificate. Eight weeks is very optimistic considering the influx of applications one can now anticipate. Children if under 18 years of age.

  • Johan Groenenberg

    Got our certificates after one hell of a fight with them. It took about 6 months. Reason for taking so long is the fact that I refused to sign an avidavit for late registration for my children. Why must I, the children already had their birth certificates, I only need the unabridged certificates.

  • Deirdre

    I have been very happy with the service of the Home Affairs office at Bellville. I have been there numerous times requesting paperwork on behalf of my siblings that live overseas. Other than a death certificate coming back with the wrong date I have always received my requested paperwork quickly and accurately. I applied for my children’s passports at the end of March 2014 and was meant to receive a sms to confirm when they were available. I never received a sms as the sms system doesn’t always work but my passports were ready within 8 weeks. Just phone the offices where you applied and ask them to check their stock. The online system still reflects that my children’s passports are being processed!

    My concern about this new law is HOW will the passport control staff handle a person arriving in the country without their children’s correct birth certificate? Will they be allowed to enter the country? Does this apply to all international passport holders or just SA passport holders entry/exiting SA?

    • Amber

      My thoughts too Deirdre. How many people will get to the borders after hours of travelling by car, or have booked international flights, and then get told they can’t go through?? I see many many initial BIG problems coming.
      Our Edenvale Home Affairs office is also extremely jacked. Over many years I have only had a few problems where I really had to throw my toys. Otherwise they are efficient and quick.

  • Renée Botha

    Eight weeks!!! Who are they kidding??? It took me five years to get my children’s unabridged birth certificates, and that after uncountable calls, emails, letters, visits and resubmissions. I understand the need for stricter controls, but the only people who will be penalized by this new system will be the ones trying to obtain the correct documentation through legal and official channels. Child traffickers will just use fraudulent paperwork or resort to bribery and corruption. They are after all hardly honest and law-abiding citizens to start with.

  • seems like the day your child is born you need to apply for this certificate

  • Kim

    We applied for both our kids’ unabridged certificates at Boksburg Home affairs when we applied for their passports. They were ready at the same time as the passports which was just over a month’s wait.

  • Jono

    Does this apply for domestic flights as well or just international

  • haroon

    i applied last year in last year september for unabridged certificates for my 3 kids, received two and still waiting for the third certificate to be issued

  • Karen

    There is a Department of Home Affairs Customer Care number (which they gave my friend “in case you aren’t contacted by the department in 4 weeks”). It is 0800 60 11 90 – they seem pretty helpful, but whether it speeds anything up or not I’m not sure. Worth a try for those waiting 🙂

  • Bernie

    What about foster kids and kids currently undergoing adoption? No biological parents details. How does this affect them travelling internationally? anyone have some insight….

  • Candice

    The information on drivesouthafrica – and many other websites says that if you are one parent travelling with the child, you need:

    • Parental Consent Affidavit (PCA) not older than 3 months
    • Court order granting FULL parental responsibilities and rights to the travelling parent
    I would like to know, if you are a single parent, and the other parent decided many years ago to not be a parent, therefore you can’t get an affidavit – HOW do you go about getting a court order granting FULL parental responsibilities and rights?
    I was told by the below office (details below) that I have to go to the Supreme court, this means attorney expenses which I can’t afford. What other way do I get the court order?
    As things stand now, because my son’s father decided he wanted nothing to do with us, my son and myself are not unable to travel – which means that South Africa is holding us hostage in our own country. Do you know of anything that is being done about this situation? There are 100’s and 1000’s of single parents and their children who’s rights have been taken away – we are being held hostage against our wills inside South Africa?
    I have raised my son’s on my own, as the father has not bothered to care for or share the parent responsibilities, and now I have to go begging and pleading because I want to take my kids on a two week holiday at a friend’s farm in Namibia. The father has had no responsibility, made no decisions for the children, has done nothing for them, but I must now kiss his buttox and beg and plead for the affidavit. This makes no sense to me – I wonder how many more ways will I be punished for the ‘sperm donors’ lack of support and consideration towards the child/ren.
    What next? Is next is going to be taken away from us, what next?
    So – I don’t have any money for a lawyer, how do I get the court order that was mentioned on the website??
    The problem of ABSENT PARENTS has not been looked at with regards to travelling.

    • Elisabeth

      Hi Candice, have you had any resolution wrt this? I am in the same boat! And both my son and I are not even SA citizens and are on British and Austrian passports. Father also absent for many years..

  • Lynne Eksteen

    I applied at Roodepoort Home Affairs for my child’s UBC and it was ready within four weeks. No problem. I have always only received the very best service from this office.

  • G. Chandler

    I Applied for my sons Unabridged Cert a year ago at Welkom Home Affairs , still waiting , I keep calling and they keep giving me Ref nos and keep telling me they will escalate the process , but I am still calling and still getting ref nos .
    He will be 18 soon and wont need it , useless as ever.

  • teresa kirk

    Urgently need a holiday visa for foster child in S.A. to Australia. Have supplied Aus. authorities all requested documents together with court order for foster care showing us as Legal Guardians, and letter from Prov.Head Dept. Social Development in terms of Sect. 169 of Childrens Act. advising that she is allowed to leave the boarders of S.A. in our care… Visa applic. has been denied. Can anyone help?