Confused About Unabridged Birth Certificates? This Tool Is A Life Saver

Latest update: As of the 4 December 2015 the Department of Home Affairs has put plans in place to assist travellers travelling with minors during the festive season. It will be in effect from December 10 to January 16.

Outbound travellers

Outbound travellers with children are still required to produce:

  • the Unabridged Birth certificate in addition to the passport of the travelling minor
  • affidavits confirming parental consent to such travel in the event that one parent is not travelling.

The Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs, Mkuseli Apleni, has said there is a team in place to rapidly respond to issues regarding the unabridged birth certificate and to ensure that the certificate is issued within the specific period.

“It takes eight weeks to apply for and be issued with the UBC – which is required for each traveling child,” Mkuseli said “Those whose applications have exceeded eight weeks and have not received the certificates are advised to visit their Home Affairs office where they will be given a letter to use in the place of the UBC. This is only in the event that they need to travel.

Children under the age of 18 who already have passports:

The Department has done a pre-modification so that Home Affairs offices are able to issue them with the UBC on the spot.

“Where there are problems with the application, sms messages will be sent to the applicants concerned, encouraging them immediately to go to the office where they had applied, to receive assistance so that officials may issue the certificates timeously,” eTWN reported Mkuseli said.

Going forward:

Details of parents will be printed in children’s passports meaning that parents whose particulars were printed would not be required to carry birth certificates when travelling with their children.

Extended office hours at selected ports of entry during the busy festive season. Find out more here.

Dedicated phone numbers for travellers requiring assistance with the unabridged birth certificates:

072 634 0614 / 072 634 0589 / 073 567 6208 / 073 567 5968.

Good to know:

From April 2016:

The term Unabridged Birth Certificate will be changed to Birth Certificate.


Enter this tool – the Child Visa Checklist App. Developed by Drive South Africa, a subsidiary of The Discover Africa Group, the web app simplifies the complexity of the new South African child visa requirements by distilling 15 different documents and 37 unique scenarios for children travelling in and out of South Africa into an easily digested format. The tool asks three pointed questions to help travellers:

  • Who is the child travelling with?
  • Parental status (married, divorced, legally separated etc.) and
  • Any other special circumstances (adoption, foster care, whether both parents are still alive, etc.)

Have you travelled to/from South Africa with children since 1 June 2015? Please complete our Unabridged Birth Certificates feedback survey and help us monitor the situation.

Non-South African Citizens travelling to SA

It will still be required that original birth certificates and, as necessary, parental consent or certified copies are submitted during the visa application process.

For visa-exempt countries a strong advisory will be issued, with travellers advised to have proof of relationship and consent from the absent parent/s or guardian/s, in case they are asked to provide such on arrival. The status quo will remain until such time the Department of Home Affairs has provided a legal instrument for this category of travellers.

It has been recommended by the US Embassy that US citizens (and other visa-free travellers) should carry an authorisation letter that is notarised. You may not be asked for this but in the meantime it seems like the best possible insurance against complications at the border.

When a child is travelling alone to South Africa the child must carry a letter from the person that will be receiving them in South Africa, containing the person’s address and contact details, as well as a copy of the host’s identity document or passport (in this case it is probable that no birth certificate will be required).

How it works

After inputting the scenario appropriate information users are directed to a list of required documents for that traveller’s specific scenario (e.g. Child is travelling with both parents) is displayed on screen.

The tool works on desktop and mobile devices and provides links to downloadable documents from the Department of Home Affairs, as well as answering frequently asked questions in layman’s terms.

Try the app now.

Unabridged Resources:

Have you travelled to/from South Africa with children since 1 June 2015? Please complete our Unabridged Birth Certificates feedback survey and help us monitor the situation.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi Claire,

    For this you would need to contact Home Affairs.They will be able to advise on the correct procedures to follow and what documents they require from you

  2. Good Day
    My daughter is 12 and i need to apply for an unabridged birth certificate for her high school applications. She was born out of wedlock but has her fathers surname as he signed paternity at the hospital. He resides in the UK and is a permanent resident there with a British ID. He has not been in her life for 9 years and does not pay maintenance. He has advised he no longer has a SA ID and does not remember his ID number. He was born in SA. What do I do?

  3. Hi Charne,

    To my knowledge it goes by what is showing in your passport. I’ve just checked with a colleague. His wife’s maiden name is on the UBC as that is what is showing in her passport (her maiden surname)

    However we do recommend you contact DHA direct as well as the airline to get the most up to date information as you do not want any surprises on the day you travel.

  4. Good Day,

    I just want to know if they only put the mothers maiden name on the UBC or do they put the married surname. My son’s has my maiden surname on, will it be a problem if we leave the country SA to NZ? or do I need to change my married surname on his UBC

  5. Hi Miri,

    Children born out of wedlock are registered under the surname of the mother only, unless the biological father acknowledges paternity of the child and both the father and the mother consent to the registration of the child under the father’s surname. In this case hyphenating is not allowed. The unabridged birth certificate of a child born out of wedlock will reflect only the mother’s name and identity number, unless she and the father consent to the father being named thereon.

  6. Good Day

    I have applied for unabridged birth certificates for both my children ages 16 and 14 but did not fill out the fathers details as i have none of his details / we’ve had no contact with him for the last 10 years , they do not have his surname and we where never married … will they issue a unabridged birth certificate? and will i be able to travel with them as we are planning a cruise? what should i do and expect?

    Thank you

  7. Hi Fiona,

    I would suggest bringing your birth certificate as an additional document. Just to be safe.

    To avoid any disappointment, contact KLM as they would be able to clarify and provide you with the most up to date info on what is required.

  8. Hi,

    I’m hoping you might be able to help.

    My husband and I are travelling to Cape Town with KLM at the end of March. We are taking our three biological children with us. I have unabridged birth certificates for them all but have noticed that my eldest son has my maiden name on his certificate while the others have my married name (yet also state my maiden name). My passport is in my married name. Will I need to bring my birth certificate too as additional documentation?

  9. Hi Chanel,

    Thanks for getting in touch and sorry to hear the stress you have gone through.

    To my knowledge, I don’t think this would be possible. However, we do not specialise in this area so would not be able to advise.

    Please contact Home Affairs as well as the airline you book to travel on.

    They will be able to advise accordingly if it would be possible and if there would be other documents required or any other procedures to follow.

  10. Hi there,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    You and the father of your child would need to decide on this.

    However please contact Home Affairs as they will be able to advise accordingly and provide the most up to date info.

  11. Hi, I hope you can help.

    We are traveling are planning to travel to USA in March , we have an appointment with the US in February.

    We applied for our son’s UBC in November and only My details were on the certificate as Home Affairs did not capture his Father’s details on the system. We were then told to do a paternity test which we did. However, they are saying we will need to wait three months to put the father’s details on the certificate. My Question is will we be able to travel with only my details on the UBC? We are all traveling together, his Dad myself and him.

  12. Good morning,

    I would like to know which surname of the mother will appear on my daughter’s UBC. Will it be the surname the mother had when the child was born or her current surname? She got divorced from the child’s father and remarried.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Thank you

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