May 11, 2016

No changes to child visa rules... yet

Travelling in or out of South Africa with children? Make sure you go armed with all the right papers, because the new immigration regulations requiring unabridged birth certificates and other documentation are still in full force.

This is despite an announcement by the South African government last October that it would be relaxing the rules following recommendations by the Inter Ministerial Committee set up to assess the fallout of the controversial immigration regulations.

Many family holidays have been ruined by South Africa’s controversial immigration rules. Don’t let yours be – ask your Sure Travel consultant for the latest updates.

The new regulations are reported to have caused an almost 5% drop in foreign arrivals in 2015, while there was a 50% decline in the number of children travelling in and out of South Africa between June and December 2015, according to a report by the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa.

“The damage to our tourism industry – and to South Africa’s image in general – has been catastrophic,” says David Frost, chief executive of the South African Tourism Services Association, who recounts scenes of crying children and traumatised parents being turned away at airport check-in counters in South Africa and across the world.

The local tourism industry was therefore jubilant when, after months of intense lobbying, Cabinet announced it would be phasing in changes to the immigration regulations within “one to three months.” These were to include, among others, the allowing of visa applications by post in countries where there is no South African embassy and the requirement for an “unabridged birth certificate” to be changed to “birth certificate containing parental details.”

But six months later there has been little meaningful change to the regulations, which Frost says could be amended “with the stroke of a pen.”

Repeated attempts to gain comment from the Department of Home Affairs on the reasons for the delay in implementation have failed.

Meanwhile, an average of around 40 people are being turned away at airports every day due to the stringent regulations, according to Frost. “And that’s not counting the hundreds or thousands of people who look at these regulations and decide it’s all too much hassle to come to South Africa, they’d rather go elsewhere. It’s an untenable, depressing situation.”

Article written for the Sure Travel Journey magazine by Melany Bendix. 

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