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South Africa: Regulations Aimed at Stemming Parental Kidnapping Take Effect

(June 8, 2015) On June 1, 2015, South African immigration regulations imposing certain rules on parents and others traveling to or from South Africa that are intended to curb parental kidnapping of small children took effect. (Statement by Home Affairs Director-General, Mkuseli Apleni, at the Media Briefing on New Requirements for Travelling with Children Coming into Effect on 1 June 2015 (May 29, 2015), Department of Home Affairs website.) The implementation of the rules, which was initially slated for October 1, 2014, had been deferred twice in order to give the government more time to disseminate information about the new rules worldwide and for parents to comply with the requirements. (Hanibal Goitom, South Africa: Postponed Implementation of Provisions on Parental Kidnapping, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Sept. 22, 2014).)

Under the new rules, a parent traveling with a child to or from South Africa is required to produce an unabridged birth certificate for the child and either an affidavit of consent from the other parent, a court order granting the parent traveling with the child full custody, or a death certificate for the other parent. (Immigration Regulations, 2014, § 12(b) University of Pretoria website.) If both parents are traveling with their child, the requirement to carry an unabridged birth certificate for the child does not apply. (Statement by Home Affairs Director-General, supra.) In addition, the requirement to carry an unabridged birth certificate does not apply to those traveling from countries “that are not visa exempt.” (Id.)

A person traveling to or from South Africa with a child who is not that person’s biological child is required to provide all of the following documents:

(i) a copy of the unabridged birth certificate of the child;
(ii) an affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child confirming that he or she has permission to travel with the child;
(iii) copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian of the child; and
(iv) the contact details of the parents or legal guardian of the child, … (Immigration Regulations, 2014, § 12(c).)

According to an advisory document issued by the Department of Home Affairs, an unabridged birth certificate is “an extract from the Birth Register containing the particulars of a minor and those of his or her parent or parents,” (Statement by Home Affairs Director-General, supra.) The South African government will accept as a valid unabridged birth certificate any birth certificate or equivalent document issued by any country containing similar information. (Id.)

The new rules have resulted in a substantial increase in applications for unabridged birth certificates in South Africa. By May 26, 2015, the Department of Home Affairs had a backlog of about 4,000 applications for these documents. (Id.) However, as of June 1, the day the requirements took effect, the Department reported that it had cleared the backlog. (Dineo Bendile, ‘Unabridged Birth Certificate Backlog Cleared,’ EYEWITNESS NEWS (June 1, 2015).)