Travelling to South Africa with Kids

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Nov 1, 2017
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#1
We are a US citizen family of four. In December we are all four flying to South Africa from London.

I've heard how closely the airlines check the children's birth certificates for travel to SA and how people get turned away when they have the short form British birth certificates.

To be clear our kids were born in the US and have US birth certificates with both my and my wife's name on them.

I'm just wondering if we are likely to have problems at Heathrow based on the agent may have not seen a US birth certificate before
 
#2
All children must present a valid Passport for International Air Travel. You will need the birth certificates to get a passport.

Here's the State Dept. website that tells how you get one:
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/under-16.html

Read the requirements carefully. Both legal guardians must accompany the minor child and it appears that you need an original or certified copy of the birth certificate.

and here's some info from USA Today:
http://traveltips.usatoday.com/age-usa-passport-required-105781.html
 
Nov 1, 2017
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#3
Thanks George. We all have passports. The issue is South Africa requires you to have birth certificates for minor children.

I have read many cases of people at Heathrow being turned away from flights to South Africa due to bringing the short form British birth certificate (Only the Brits would think to give out useless 'short form' birth certificates not recognized by anybody, and make you pay to get the 'proper' ones!)

We have original US Birth certificates and I was wondering if we were likely to run into problems at Heathrow due to their people maybe never having seen a US birth certificate.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#4
As long as you have the actual certified birth certificates you should be fine. What we have in the U.S. and what they have in Great Britain are not the same.

Here is where you can find what you need:
http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/civic-services/traveling-with-children

In Great Britain, they have a short form (abridged) and long form. They must provide the long form, the "unabridged" form. This has nothing to do with a U.S. citizen.

Have you asked your travel agent or tour operator that booked this trip for you?
 
Nov 1, 2017
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#5
Hi Neil.
We booked the trip ourselves (no travel agent).
We have the original US birth certificates... just wondering if anybody else can confirm they had no problem using them to check in at LHR
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
12,290
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www.promalvacations.com
#6
You shouldn't have an issue. These folks are experienced and they know the requirements for their own birth certificates and have seen them from other countries. Since our birth certificates don't have that option you shouldn't have any problems. Just make sure its the actual certificate, not a copy.
 
#8
Sorry. I misunderstood your question but your reply got me thinking.

I just did some Googling and it appears that the problem is caused by South Africa's insistence on an original, or certified copy, of a birth certificate identifying both parents ("unabridged"?), in addition to a valid passport. They're trying to crack down on human trafficking and they are paying particular attention to minors traveling with adults, both entering and leaving the country. Any airline representative checking in passengers for a flight to South Africa is going to give the birth certificates a real going-over. The airlines don't want to have to bring the passengers back, at the airlines' expense, if they are turned away at South African Immigration. The British "short form" certificate may not contain all the requisite information. Apparently ours (and yours) are OK.

@rcx141, I really want to thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. My wife is taking her son, daughter-in-law and 15 year-old granddaughter to South Africa next summer. While she always researches her trips thoroughly, this birth certificate requirement might have slipped through the cracks.

I've learned my one important thing for the day. Now I can take a nap.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#9
Hi Neil.
We booked the trip ourselves (no travel agent).
We have the original US birth certificates... just wondering if anybody else can confirm they had no problem using them to check in at LHR
If you want some "eye witness" experiences, rcx, I suggest you peruse FlyerTalk forums to see what intell you can pick up.

There are occasionally issues at airports for single-parents with children, or a couple with children who may have a different parent. I doubt if that's your situation, but just want to be sure.
 
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Likes: Neil Maley
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#11
Here's an update if anyone's interested. At Heathrow the bag drop guy paid very close attention to our kids' birth certificates. He noted the parent names on the birth certificates match the names in my and my wife's passports. Clearly that would not be the case for many families. Our flight was to Cape Town via Joburg. When we landed at Joburg, the immigration guy also paid a lot of attention to the birth certificates - so keep them in your hand luggage !

Anyway we're now in Cape Town - quite a stunning place it turns out. The locals are extremely friendly and laid-back. We flew South African airways from Heathrow - Joburg - Cape Town. The quality of the onboard meals and entertainment was excellent and the onboard staff are very friendly and welcoming. A big contrast to the Chicago - Heathrow flight on a worn out United 767 with early 90s era IFE.
 
Nov 1, 2017
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#12
OK so now we are back. When checking in at JNB they also paid very close attention to the birth certificates.

If you have a full US birth certificate for your kid, are travelling with your spouse, and the names in your passports match the parent names on the birth certificate, you should be OK. If you're a blended family, you should take advice, I think !

If you can take care of this requirement, you won't regret visiting South Africa. The people generally are unbelievably warm and friendly and the tour guides extremely knowledgeable.

We found internet access to be a bit spotty. Don't expect to find free wi-fi everywhere you go. One of our hotels in Cape Town gave you a voucher limited to 700MB. You could get more free vouchers, but still. We also stayed at a resort near the Kruger National Park. It had free wi-fi, but it was unusably slow..

When traveling around, you will find plenty of hotspots but they are paid. When renting our car I opted to get a portable wi-fi unit. When that worked, it was great, but even though there was a good cell signal, it would frequently fail to get an internet connection. So if you are the type of person who needs to keep in close touch with the office while enjoying your South African getaway, bear that in mind!

Otherwise, enjoy this beautiful country and its friendly people!