South African Home Affairs DG on New Visa Requirements for Children

Friday, 29 May 2015
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this special briefing ahead of the 1st June implementation of new requirements for travelling with children. We called this briefing because we needed to clarify a few issues.
By now you know that the requirements for children travelling to or from the Republic of South Africa take effect next Monday, 1 June 2015. The requirements are aimed at establishing the principle that all children must have the consent of their parents when travelling into or out of the Republic.
The new requirements will apply to South African children, under 18, upon leaving the Republic, and children who are foreign nationals and who are visa exempt when travelling through a port of entry of the Republic.
Children who apply for a South African visa at any mission or VFS service-point will have to submit the required additional documents, such as unabridged birth certificates.
I said on Tuesday, 26 May, that the Department has a backlog of around 4,000 applications for unabridged birth certificates. For smooth implementation, we are pulling out all the stops and are now left with only 800 applications to clear.
The 800 applications include where supporting documents are not available. We will continue sending reminders through text messages. Since people change their numbers from time to time, we have explored other mechanisms for reaching them.
Accordingly, we now have dedicated numbers for people to call for assistance in the event they have not received their documents and need to travel. Here are the numbers they should to call: 072 634 0589; 072 634 0614; 073 567 6208; and 073 567 5968.
Those who have applied for unabridged birth certificates and are planning to travel, and had not received documents, are advised to visit any office of Home Affairs to request a document that will allow them to travel with children through our ports of entry.
I must reiterate that where both parents are travelling with valid passports and visas the unabridged birth certificate is not a requirement since these additional documents would have been provided when applications were made for passports and visas.
It is where one parent or another person is travelling with somebody else’s child that we require valid passports, an unabridged birth certificate, and parental consent affidavits.
Travellers who are from countries that are not visa-exempt do not have to bring along unabridged birth certificates for the child/children travelling with. The Visa Exemption List is on the Home Affairs website.
We do not understand the claims that our requirements are unique, not applicable elsewhere, and would have consequences for tourism and the economy in general. Our regulations were benchmarked even with countries attracting more tourists. SA citizens are also required to have these documents when going to some countries of the world.
It was also due to requirements expected of our citizens by other countries that we decided to move towards issuing the unabridged birth certificate with the child’s and parent(s) particulars in it.
A number of countries ask for additional documents for travelling with children, including, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Schengen countries like France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The United States recommends where a child is not travelling with both parents that the travelling parent or guardian should have a note showing parental consent.
Through DIRCO we requested countries to provide a specimen of their unabridged birth certificates or equivalent documents and they have responded to our request, including from both visa-exempt countries and those requiring visas.
One other issue that was raised for clarity has been that of language in which documents would have been issued by other countries. Based on the specimen of unabridged birth certificates or equivalent documents we have received from countries, we are not requiring any translations from travellers, as we are able to verify their documents through the received documents, among other things.
Immigration Officers will have specimen at the ports of entry for verification.
In addition, where translation is required, we do this at no cost at South African foreign embassies abroad. We will limit delays at ports of entry.
We are looking forward to a smooth process with only limited glitches as would be expected of any new endeavour or project. At South Africa’s ports of entry, there will be Immigration Officers who will focus on checking the required documents when travellers reach the Home Affairs security zone.
We have also posted on our website the formats that people and countries should refer to for the Parental Consent Affidavit and the Equivalent Document in lieu of the unabridged birth certificate, as well as a detailed immigration advisory on new requirements for travelling with children through South Africa’s ports of entry.
Though this is a matter for another day, we need to remember that South Africa is not the only country in the world asking people to apply for visas in person, for the purpose of biometrics. Those going to the US, Sweden and the UK also apply in person. For Sweden, all applications are made only in Pretoria, in person.
People in our country are also doing the same, travelling to limited centres to apply in person for their visas, and I am yet to hear of queries regarding how this will impact on tourism in countries that they have selected to visit.
To round up, these are the exemptions:
• Minors who travelled prior to 1 June 2015 will not be required to produce supporting documents should the return leg of the journey occur after 1 June.
• No supporting documents will be required in the case of minors in direct transit at an international airport.
• Minors in possession of valid SA visas shall not be required to produce additional documents when travelling through a port of entry of the Republic.
• In the case of countries that endorse the particulars of parents in children’s passports, or other official identification documents, these documents shall be acceptable for the purpose of establishing the identity of parents of the travelling minor. Example: Indian passports record the parents’ names on the passport. In this instance, the requirement of an unabridged birth certificate may be dispensed with.
Where any parent/s recorded in an unabridged birth certificate or equivalent document, are unable to consent to the travel by a child due to recent death, or mental or physical disability, persons acting on behalf of the child/children may apply for a special dispensation in lieu of the parental consent affidavit by directing a request and full motivation, together with all supporting documents (example, treating medical practitioners certificate), to the Office of the Director-General of Home Affairs, at the following e-mail address:
I thank you for attending.
Note to Editors: Attached herein the background document.


Uncovering a Truth in a Tragedy

Once again, it’s been the best and worst of times for our country – and our little slice of it, in particular.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve hardly had time to blink. From one crime or disaster to another, it was hardly surprising that expatriates named and shamed us (and tried to hide a certain relief that they’d left).

The problem with people, though, is people. I have watched a nation being tarnished, lambasted and split along racial lines; its sunny, Mandela-painted reputation blotted. If I was a real-deal conspiracy theorist, this would look like an undercover smear campaign to me.

But here in Port Elizabeth and surrounds, I’ve also noticed an incredible force at work. Something biological, perhaps, rooted in nature; or possibly a sign that in the Eastern Cape, community is an action word, not just a concept.

When one of our own was murdered last month, we united against evil, crime, women abuse and every other despicable assault on the human right to live peacefully – and to be safe at home. I felt the event more keenly than some, because I share a past with many of the people connected to the tragedy.

Elsewhere in our communities, other women shared the same fate, or will soon. What happened to Jayde Panayiotou should not happen to anybody. Regardless of the circumstances, suspects and facts (or rumours) surrounding a tragedy like this, this is what we banded together for and said: we will not have this happening in our neighbourhood, or yours; and we will not stand for it.

In times of crisis, people become their true selves. Perhaps, says Maia Szalvitz, a TIME magazine neuroscience journalist, it is because we are wired this way.

“Our brains are designed so that our stress systems can be soothed by social support: in response to the calming words or gentle touch of loved ones, for example, the bonding hormone oxytocin tends to lower levels of stress hormones. We learn this from infancy from our parents or caregivers; as we grow, our stress systems remain intricately linked to the presence of others who can provide comfort and relief from anxiety.”

Szalvitz says that many studies now show that strong social support extends life and improves health. During disasters, our “social networks largely determine our fates: the more connections we have and the stronger our bonds are to each other, the more likely we are to survive, not just physically but emotionally. To prevent and treat post-traumatic stress disorder, these ties are the best medicine. It’s when we face the toughest times that our true nature reveals itself.”

On social media, at church, in marches and during conversations with friends, thousands of people tuned into this biological wiring by focusing on a beautiful and much-loved teacher who has become an icon for everything good in a world gone mad.

And this is what we should cling to, rather than getting caught up in the tabloid frenzy that comes from a real-life event being twisted into a ‘story’.

If we’re innately built to give comfort and support in a time of crisis, then that is what we should do.

Beth Cooper Howell

First published in Woman on Top in The Herald