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2015-05-31 15:00

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The department of home affairs has implemented new immigration regulations and amendments to the acts that came into effect in May last year.

This was to manage immigration by balancing South Africa’s openness to travellers with development and security imperatives.

Between 2013 and last year alone, we welcomed 13.5 million foreign visitors. Conversely, 600 000 passports are issued annually for South Africans who travel the world.

New requirements for children travelling through South Africa’s ports of entry were among those areas that generated more dialogue in the public discourse.

A grace period was granted to prepare everyone for this change, ensuring that people apply for additional documents, in particular a child’s unabridged birth certificate containing the particulars of the child and those of the parents, as well as parental-consent affidavits and valid children’s passports.

Implementation was postponed from May 26 last year to June 1 this year after appeals and further consultations.

These new requirements therefore take effect tomorrow and establish the principle that all children must require the consent of their parents when travelling into or out of the republic. The new requirements will apply to children under 18 upon leaving the country, as well as children who are foreign nationals and visa exempt when travelling through a South African port of entry.

Unabridged birth certificates must be submitted for children applying for a South African visa.

It is international practice to indicate permission or legal authority to have a child in one’s care. Interestingly, less is being said about the effect this has on tourism in countries that apply similar rules, including the UK, Australia and Schengen countries.

South Africa’s regulations were also benchmarked.

In Canada, for example, children who travel need their own passports.

US customs and border protections strongly recommend that there should be a note indicating parental consent from the absent parent when a child is not travelling with both parents. This is in light of increasing incidents of child abduction and human trafficking.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as reported in the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons last year, notes that we continue to see an increase in the number of detected child victims, particularly girls under 18, with most detected trafficking victims being subjected to sexual exploitation.

Between 2010 and 2012, victims with 152 different citizenships were identified in 124 countries, the report says – and those were only the reported cases.

The UN identified the need for governments “to send a clear signal that human trafficking will not be tolerated”. Ignoring this, I think, would be tantamount to abdicating our duty to act decisively on this burning issue.

It is against this background, and of course in addition to our evolving immigration policy, that from tomorrow when both parents travel through a South African port of entry accompanied by one or more of their children, they should produce valid passports and unabridged birth certificates, or the equivalent official documentation.

This includes an ID or passport, a letter issued by a foreign government, including a foreign embassy or a letter issued by South Africa’s director-general of home affairs recording the identity of the parents of a child in lieu of an unabridged birth certificate.

Where only one parent is travelling with a child, they should produce similar documents as well as a parental-consent affidavit from the non-travelling parent.

Unaccompanied children will need the documents plus parental-consent affidavits and a letter from the person who is to receive the child.

Where a person is travelling with a child who is not their biological offspring, a valid passport, unabridged birth certificate or equivalent official document, and the parental-consent affidavit is required. This also applies to children travelling as part of a school group.

No supporting documents will be required for children in direct transit at an international airport, and children with valid South African visas will not be required to produce these documents when travelling through a port of entry of the republic.

In the case of countries endorsing particulars of parents in children’s passports or other official identification documents, these documents will be acceptable for the purpose of establishing the identity of the parents of the travelling child. For example, Indian passports record parents’ names on the passport – so the requirement for an unabridged birth certificate may be dispensed with in their case.

Home affairs has developed operating procedures to standardise the implementation of these new requirements.

Lastly, since no person shaves the hair off another’s head in their absence, we continue to welcome constructive engagement from all stakeholders.

Tshwete is spokesperson for the department of home affairs
Read more on:    home affairs

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