Since 1 June 2015, parents travelling to South Africa with a child under the age of 18 must, in addition to producing a valid passport and (where required) a valid visa for the child, also produce a full, unabridged birth certificate as proof of parenthood.

In addition, where only one parent is travelling with a child, such parent must also provide a court order granting parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child and in certain circumstances, a 'Parental Consent Affidavit' as evidence that the other parent consents to the child's travel (dated no more than 4 months before the date of travel) or a court order giving permission for the child to travel. The rules about which of these documents are required and what they must contain are complicated and depend upon whether the parents are legally divorced or merely separated and the rights that the parents have in respect of the child.

Different rules about what a parent travelling with a child must provide also apply in circumstances where the other parent is deceased and in circumstances where the child is travelling with a person who is not the child's biological parent. Where a parent is unable to consent to the travel by a child due to recent death, or mental or physical disability, then persons acting on behalf of the child may apply for a special dispensation in lieu of the parental consent affidavit.

Unfortunately these changes are likely to result in families visiting South Africa becoming caught up in red tape and delays and in the worst case scenario being turned away at immigration. Given the complexities of the rules, it is strongly advised that anyone proposing to travel to South Africa with a child obtains legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in international children law. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.