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SA Drops Contentious Birth Certificate Rule – but only for South Africans

After damage to the tourism sector since the implementation of the controversial birth certificate rule, the South African government has abandoned the regulation – but only for SA passport holders.

The rule concerned any adult arriving or departing from South Africa travelling with children under the age of 18, requiring them to show an unabridged birth certificate as well as a letter of parental consent, should the minor not be travelling with both parents.

However, while the rule has been lifted for South African passport holders, it remains in place for overseas visitors.

Only South African passport holders will be exempt from the birth certificate rule.

In a recent radio interview with Radio 702, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, said that unabridged birth certificates would no longer need to be produced by South Africans travelling with children, but that consent was still required.

“The issue of a parent leaving SA with a child, that rule hasn’t changed, we still need consent from both parents.

Happy family holding boarding passes and passports at airport.

“When you leave SA to go abroad with a child, all we want is consent from the other parent, because we don’t want children escaping out of the country without the other parent knowing,” he said.

The birth certificate rule was originally introduced by former minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, in 2015, but the revision to the travel regulation comes in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa looking for new ways to boost the local tourism industry as part of his bid to reinvigorate South Africa’s stagnating economy.

“We took a view after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stimulus package announcement, to find other methods of fighting child trafficking and not use the unabridged certificate method,” said Motsoaledi.

Ryan Rennison, managing director of UK immigration company, Move Up, pointed out that while the scrapping of the rule for South Africans would be beneficial for local travellers, keeping it in place for overseas visitors to the country could still have a negative impact on tourism.

“While the South African government’s intention to limit human trafficking through our borders was commendable, unfortunately the rule created serious – and mostly negative – consequences for our economy and our tourism sector,” said Ryan Rennison, MD of UK immigration company, Move Up.

Young mom holding her toddler on board an aircraft.

He added, “The scrapping of the birth certificate rule is a welcome relief for South African travellers, but we’ll have to wait and see whether overseas tourists are still willing to go the extra mile to visit SA with their families when there are so many other beautiful destinations in the world that are easier to visit.”

Billions lost

The DA compiled data showing that the rules may have cost South Africa as much as R7.5 billion due to lost business from ‘blocked’ tourists.

Travel company Travelstart released survey results in 2018 that showed 30% of respondents were prevented from boarding their flights due to the birth certificate regulation, while 67% of respondents said they needed to apply for an unabridged birth certificate to travel.

Of the respondents who applied for unabridged birth certificates, 41% said that their application took more than six weeks to process, making it more difficult and expensive to travel outside South Africa.

Visa-free SA

In September, Motsoaledi announced that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand passport holders would no longer need visas to visit SA.

He said the amendments were aimed at encouraging growth of the economy, through facilitating job creation and securing the country’s borders.

“Home affairs has an important contribution to make in growing tourism and, by extension, growing the economy and creating jobs.

“We are constantly reviewing our operations to ensure that we relax entry requirements, without compromising our responsibility towards the safety and security of our citizens.”

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