The South African government updated the requirements for children travelling to or from South Africa on 11 November 2019.
The changes have been welcomed by most as a vast improvement on the 2015 regulations. But four years later, there are still elements of the regulations that are potentially misleading for travellers.
The Child Visa Checklist app — developed by local car hire company Drive South Africa in 2015 and used by travellers from more than 120 countries — has been updated today, two days after the new regulations were announced by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs.
About the Child Visa Checklist app
The web-based app — which works on mobile and desktop — helps users see precisely what travel documents they need for their travel scenario, in three clicks or less.
“It eliminates confusion, simplifies things for travellers, and ultimately encourages people to visit South Africa,” said Andre Van Kets, co-founder of Drive South Africa and creator of the app.
Since the launch of the app in May 2015, it has been accessed more than 100,000 times by users from South Africa and 120 other countries.
“We’ve had tremendous positive feedback from travellers, travel agents and even airline staff over the last few years. We’re delighted with the amended regulations and even more pleased that our updated app will clarify some of the ‘new’ nuances and continue to help people plan their travel to and from South Africa with peace of mind,” added Van Kets.
Challenges for South Africans
One example where the new regulations could mislead South African, is how Home Affairs states that “South African children travelling on South African passports may travel to South Africa without birth certificates.”
In isolation, this sounds great. And many South Africans might think that they no longer need birth certificates when travelling with their kids.
But this is unfortunately not the case.
Two paragraphs later, the very same Home Affairs document lists “copy of birth certificate / equivalent document” as one of the documents required by South Africans when travelling “through a port of entry of the Republic”.
It would seem that South African passport holders don’t need birth certificates when arriving home, but they are still required when leaving the country (which makes sense, considering the government’s main aim is to curb trafficking of South African minors).
Also worth mentioning: Not much has changed for adoptive parents, legal guardians, and children travelling with a single parent. Parental consent letters (no longer “affidavits” but basically the same suggested template), death certificates and other documents are still required in specific scenarios, all of which are covered by the app.
Much better, but not crystal clear for foreigners visiting South Africa
The major takeaway from the new regulations is that children from visa-exempt countries — i.e. travellers from USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands and roughly 100 other countries who are eligible for a South African visa on arrival — no longer need to travel with birth certificates when travelling to South Africa.
Only a “valid passport” is required for visa-exempt children, according to the new regulations — even when travelling with a single parent, adoptive parents or legal guardians.
As for countries that require visas prior to travelling: the regulations state that “Children in possession of valid South African visas are not required to produce the documents already submitted as part of their visa applications.”
At first glance, this also sounds much better, but it’s not that simple.
Whilst the documents may not be needed upon arrival/departure, they are needed when applying for a South African visa from their home country, prior to their travels.
The Child Visa app update now clarifies the differences between visa-exempt and visa-requiring countries. It also points users to a list of visa-exempt and visa-requiring countries on the Home Affairs’ website, which clearly states in bright red “SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE”.
Essential Resources for Travellers to/from South Africa
The South African Department of Home Affairs “Updated Advisory November 2019: New Requirements For Children Travelling Through South African Ports Of Entry”
The South African Department of Home Affairs official list of visa-exempt countries:
The South African Department of Home Affairs’ suggested template for Parent Consent Letter:
Drive South Africa’s Child Visa Checklist app which provides a checklist of documents required by anyone travelling to or from South Africa with children: