South Africa is no longer requiring families travelling to the destination from visa-free countries to carry birth certificates for children.
The change in the law, announced as part of new government immigration regulations last week, came into effect on Saturday, December 1, just ahead of the country’s peak holiday season.
Since 2015 the law, introduced to stop child trafficking, has stated that adults travelling with a child under 18 must provide the child’s full, unabridged birth certificate showing the names of both parents at airport check-in. If one parent was travelling alone, they had to provide written consent, by way of a signed affidavit, showing the other parent had given consent for the child to travel.
The law has been a major bone of contention, with families travelling from the UK – a visa free country – turned away from flights to South Africa because they did not have the right documentation.
The new law means it is no longer compulsory to bring these supporting documents to the airport. However, in an official statement, the country’s department for home affairs said it still “strongly advised” travellers to carry the child’s birth certificate as they may still be asked for them at airport check-in.
The relaxation of the law, outlined in South Africa’s Government Gazette as an amendment to the 2002 Immigration Act, has been welcomed by the trade.
Tour operator Acacia Africa, which takes children from the age of eight on its camping, trekking, safaris and city break trips, said the news would bolster family bookings to South Africa.
Director Vivian McCarthy said: “We were delighted to hear the news that foreign families who arrive in South Africa from visa-free countries will no longer need to carry birth certificates for minors.
“With many families looking to book their summer holiday in early 2019, it’s a timely change for the country and we’re sure it will help to boost sales of our small group safaris visiting South Africa.
Children travelling without their parents to South Africa will still need special documentation, including a copy of their birth certificate and a letter of parental consent.