Important new entry regulations come into force at South African airports on Monday 1 June.
From then on, parents travelling from abroad with their children and entering the country for a holiday will need to prove they are the child’s parents or guardian. Even one parent arriving with his or her children will have to show that he or she has the consent of his wife or husband to bring their kids into the country.
South Africa offers some of the most magical holiday experiences anywhere – from safaris to the urban beach setting of beautiful Cape Town, but the new red tape could have an impact on holiday bookings to the country.
Originally set to come into force last October, the new rule starts this Monday and the thinking behind it is to curb child trafficking in Africa. However, airlines, tour operators and others in the industry are warning that unless parents bring the right documentation to prove they are parents or guardians, there could be hold-ups.
The rule applies to children under 18 and parents will have to remember to bring birth certificates as well as the children’s passports to gain entry into South Africa from Monday onwards.
Some predict long delays for single parents in particular who must bring two additional documents with them, along with the birth certificate(s). The first is a legal affidavit, signed up to 3 months prior to the current date of travel, to prove the absent parent agrees to the travel plans.
Te second “proof” is a court order confirming full parental responsibility or guardianship of the child. If a widower or widow is travelling with their children, their ex-partner’s death certificate replaces the need for a court order, so they would need to have the passport, birth certificate, affidavit and the death certificate (or court order, whichever applies).
What about parents travelling with friends’ children? Holidaymakers visiting the country with a child who is not biologically theirs will need to provide copies of the parents’ passports and the parents’ contact details, as well as the child’s birth certificate and the affidavit.
The travel industry is not happy about the red tape. A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic has already stated that the regulations could make matters “incredibly difficult”.
“In the first instance, it’s absolute shock and horror,” said the airline’s Liezl Gericke. “There is no country in the world that is going to implement this particular process.”
Virgin Atlantic services both Cape Town and Johannesburg from London Heathrow and Ms Gericke said that once the regulations are in force, the carrier may have to prevent passengers from flying because they do not have the right paperwork.
She added: “Come June 1, we will be in a position where we are likely to turn passengers away who don’t have the correct documentation to hand.”
South Africa is a popular destination for British families – the flight is long but it’s just one hour ahead of the UK, which helps offset any chance of jet-lag. And British winters are South Africa’s summers, making it a great autumn, winter or early spring getaway before summer sets in on the British Isles.
The impact on South Africa’s tourism industry – and flights to and from the country – remains to be seen, but families will want to allow for extra delays at the airport and make sure they leave the UK with current, correct and full documentation to satisfy the South African authorities upon arrival.