Guide to South African immigration regulations

After over three years of tireless lobbying by SATSA and industry partners, Cabinet introduced amendments to regulations applying to foreign minors travelling to South Africa in November 2018.

However, the re-hashing of South Africa’s immigration regulations which was supposed to provide ‘clarity’ on the requirements for foreign minors to gain entry to the country has done nothing to help the destination market itself as a family-friendly destination.

It has simply provided a muddied message to overseas tourism partners and travelling consumers and has only served to sow further confusion among local industry stakeholders.

If the government truly wants to see the tourism sector deliver the numbers and associated economic growth and jobs, it needs to intervene and scrap these regulations outright so that the industry can support attempts to stimulate the economy.

While the South African tourism industry will continue to seek consultation and resolve with the government on this matter, SATSA has in the interim created this guide to address your most pressing questions.


Q: What are the changes in reference to foreign minors travelling to South Africa

A: The changes implemented by the South African government on 1 December 2018 are as follows:

For minors travelling to or from South Africa from visa exempt countries:

• Copies of original documents are sufficient and need not be certified
• Consent/authorisation is simply in the form of a letter and need not be notarised or be an affidavit
• Children travelling with both parents need no extra documentation, however, if there is a situation where the surname is different, carrying proof of parental relationship is advised (please refer to the section below on ‘What to expect at airports)
• In the event of a minor not travelling with both parents, but travelling with an adult, other documentation may be requested, and it is strongly advised that such documentation be carried, being a birth certificate and other supporting documents such as a letter of consent, court orders or death certificate(s) as appropriate. A period of 24 hours is provided to acquire such documents on arrival if they are requested and are not in the traveller’s possession
• In the event of a minor travelling alone, additional documentation must be carried
• A birth certificate (copy) to satisfy the immigration processes should contain details of the parent(s)

For minors travelling to or from South Africa from visa required countries:

• The requirements for children travelling with only one parent or another adult from visa-requiring countries have been retained. This means that they have to produce the documentation on the application for a visa, and a copy of a birth certificate will be required when applying for any child visa
• Should the adult(s) travelling with a child on a visa change from what was stated on the visa application due to unavoidable short-term circumstances, the travelling adult(s) are also advised to carry the same documentation as above (for visa-exempt travellers)

Q: What can be expected at airports?

A: The Department of Home Affairs issued an advisory on its website that contradicts the relaxation of the regulations governing children travelling to SA.

The Amendment to the Immigration Act was gazetted on 30 November and removes the requirement for children travelling with both parents on a foreign passport to carry a birth certificate when they travel.

The following day the Department issued an Advisory on its website stating the opposite.

Airlines’ check-in staff around the world have been advised to follow this advisory and not the redrafted regulations that were gazetted on November 30.

Iata, which uses its Timatic system to advise check-in staff of its member airlines on what travel documentation travellers need before boarding a flight to SA, confirmed that it had been advised by SA Government sources to use the advisory of the DHA website which states:

“3.1. Where both parents are travelling accompanied by one or more of their children, such children have to produce valid passports and a Birth Certificate (BC) for each child travelling.”

Thus, airlines around the world are compelled to continue to deny boarding to children without birth certificates.

Q: Procedures and documents required when only one parent is travelling with a minor

A: According to the DHA the following documents are required when only one parent is travelling with a minor child or children:

1. Parental Consent Letter

A parental consent letter must accompany a Birth Certificate when any parent is not travelling with his or her child. The consent letter must not be older than 6 months when presented.

The suggested format of the Parental Consent letter is available here

As an additional measure, this document should be verified (stamped and signed) by the police or other institution, authorised to do so.

2. Birth Certificate

In South Africa, a Birth Certificate (BC) is an extract from the Birth Register containing the particulars of a child and those of his or her parent or parents. BCs are official documents issued by the Department of Home Affairs in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992 (Act No. 51 of 1992). All birth certificates containing the details of a child as well as the parents of the child shall be accepted for the purposes of these requirements as BCs, regardless of the country of issue.

In the case of countries that do not issue BCs, an ‘equivalent document’ containing the particulars of the child and his or her parent or parents, issued by the competent authority of that country, or an embassy of that country may be used instead of a BC. A suggested format for such an Equivalent Document is available here

Again, this document should be verified by an authorised institution or person.

3.Dispensation in lieu of the parental consent

Where any parent/s recorded in a BC, 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 letter 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:

Keep in mind that this dispensation only applies to incapacity and does not apply where a parent is either unwilling to consent or unable to be located due to separation or divorce. Where a parent refuses to give consent, a court order in terms of section 18(5) of the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005), may be presented in lieu of such parental consent.

Refer to for full details.

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