Traveling to South Africa with Children

travel south africa children

Traveling to South Africa is set to become much easier when the government of South Africa introduces the South Africa tourist visa online, an electronic visa which will eliminate the need to apply for a visa from an embassy or consulate.

However, although the South Africa eVisa application will facilitate the process of obtaining a tourist visa for the country, it will still be necessary to comply with the requirements for supporting documents for a visa.

Those planning to travel to the country with kids should be aware that there are strict entry requirements for children traveling to South Africa.

The travel documents for children for entry to South Africa depend on a variety of factors, including how many parents are accompanying the child, the child’s nationality, and whether or not they are resident in some form of alternative care.

Read on to discover travel advice for bringing children to South Africa and find out exactly which documents you will need.

What Documents Does a Minor Need to Fly to South Africa?

Before coming to the country with a minor, travelers should check the South Africa Visa requirements and the South Africa child policy. The following table details the necessary documentation required depending on the nationality of the child and who they are traveling with.

This documentation will be requested at the port of entry and exit in South Africa for children with South African nationality or foreign visa-exempt children.

Those who are required to apply for a South Africa visa will be required to provide the same documentation as a visa-exempt child, but during the visa application process instead of at the port of entry.

Do children traveling to South Africa need to produce their birth certificate upon arrival?

Whether a child needs to present their birth certificate when visiting or departing from South Africa depends on the child’s nationality:

  • South African children traveling on a South African passport do need to carry their unabridged birth certificate to enter the country
  • Foreign visa-exempt children will no longer need to present their birth certificate nor parental consent letters
  • Foreign visa-required children will have their birth certificate processed during their visa application, and no longer have to produce the document for inspection at the airport upon arrival
Travelers intending to visit South Africa in the company of minors, or family members sending unaccompanied minors to South Africa often wonder whether they will need to present the child’s birth certificate.

This confusion is due to the fact that unabridged birth certificates were introduced as a travel requirement for minors arriving in South Africa in 2015. This document was initially required to help prevent child trafficking.

However, on Friday, November 8th, 2019, South African government officials announced that birth certificates and consent letters are no longer required for foreign children traveling with their parents to enter the country.

The birth certificate requirement for South Africa is eliminated when children visit the country with their mother and father carrying a valid passport on which the child’s parents are registered as such.

 

Required documents for children traveling to South Africa
South African childForeign visa-exempt child
Child traveling with both parents
  • Valid passport containing details of the parent or parents of the child
  • If passport does not contain detais of parent, or parents: Copy of a birth certificate /equivalent document
  • Valid passport
Child traveling with one parent
  • Valid passport containing details of the parent or parents of the child
  • If passport does not contain detais of parent, or parents: Copy of a birth certificate / equivalent document
  • Parental consent letter from absent parent
  • Copy of the passport / identity document of the absent parent
  • Contact details of the absent parent

If applicable:

  • Copy of a court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child, if applicable
  • Copy of death certificate of deceased parent, if applicable
  • Valid passport
Child accompanied by person who is not their biological parent
  • Valid passport
  • Copy of a birth certificate / equivalent document
  • Parental consent letter (s)
  • Copy of the passport(s)/identity document(s) of the child’s parent(s)/legal guardian (s)
  • Contact details for the parent(s)/legal guardian(s)

If applicable:

  • Copy of a death certificate
  • Copy of an adoption order
  • Copy of  court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights/legal guardianship to the person accompanying the child.
  • Valid passport
Unaccompanied child (entering South Africa)
  • Copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • Parental consent letters
  • Copy of the passport(s)/identity document(s) of the child’s parent(s)/legal guardian (s)
  • Contact details for the parent(s)/legal guardian(s)
  • A letter from the person who will receive the child upon arrival in South Africa, containing their residential address (where the child will also reside in South Africa) and contact details
  • Copy of the valid passport/identity document or valid resident permit of the person who will receive the child upon their arrival in South Africa

If applicable:

  • Copy of a death certificate
  • Copy of an adoption order
  • Copy of  court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights/legal guardianship in respect to the child.
Child in alternative care (resident in South Africa who is exiting the country)
  • Valid passport
  • Letter from the provincial head of the Department of Social Development where the child resides, authorising his or her departure from South Africa.

 

Can a Child Travel to South Africa with One Parent?

As outlined in the table above, it is possible for children to travel to South Africa with one parent so long as they carry their valid passport.

Exemptions for South Africa Entry Requirements for Children

Although it is necessary to present supporting documentation in most cases when traveling with children to South Africa, there are some exemptions where certain South Africa child policy requirements for children do not apply:

  • Children with a South African passport may travel to South Africa without birth certificates
  • Supporting documents are not required for children in direct transit through an international airport
  • Children with a valid South African visa are not required to produce the documents already submitted as part of their visa applications when travelling through a port of entry in South Africa
  • A child with a passport containing the details of his or her parent(s) is not required to produce a birth certificate or equivalent document
  • Children traveling as part of a school trip are able to replace the parental consent letter and other additional documents with a letter from their school principal confirming that all consent letters are held by the school. This arrangement applies to all schools registered with the Department of Basic Education in South Africa and its equivalent abroad.

In cases where the parent(s) of the child are unable to consent to their child traveling to South Africa, due to recent death or mental or physical disability, persons acting on behalf of the child may apply for a special exemption. In such cases, it is necessary to submit a request explaining the situation, alongside supporting documentation such as a treating medical practitioner’s certificate, to Office of the Director-General of Home Affairs of South Africa.

This final exemption only applies to cases of parental incapacity, and not to cases where a parent is either unwilling to consent or unable to be located due to separation or divorce. In cases where a parent refuses to give consent, it is possible to present a court order in terms of section 18(5) of the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005) as an alternative.