South Africa Adoption Alert
New South African Immigration Law May Affect U.S. Adoptive Families (October 30, 2014)
On May 26, 2014, a new law governing immigration and travel procedures, the Immigration Amendment Act (Act), entered into force in South Africa. For information about how the new law may affect your travel, please carefully review the Department of State’s webpage regarding travelling to South Africa. While the majority of the new law’s requirements went into effect on May 26, 2014, the Government of South Africa announced on September 16, 2014 that the immigration requirements specific to minors – originally set to go into effect on October 1, 2014 – are postponed until June 2015. The Government of South Africa is reviewing the impact of the new requirements on minors. While this review is ongoing, we strongly encourage you to stay apprised of the latest developments by visiting the South African Department of Home Affairs’ website or by contacting the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate. The requirements below reflect the May 26, 2014 version of the law and are therefore subject to change. The Department of State will relay new or revised information as appropriate.
Potential Impact on Adoptive Families Travelling to, from, or through South Africa:
- All children travelling to, from, or through South Africa must travel on a valid passport.
- All children entering or departing South Africa also will be required to travel with his/her original, unabridged, long-form birth certificate in hand. The exact contents of unabridged birth certificates vary among the different jurisdictions that issue birth certificates (countries, states, counties, cities, etc.), but the key distinction between an “abridged” and “unabridged” birth certificate is that an unabridged birth certificate identifies the parents of the child.
- If an adoptive child from South Africa has an existing, unabridged birth certificate that displays his/her name and his/her birth parents’ names, adoptive parents must also travel with a copy of the adoption decree, which demonstrates their legal relationship to the child. Adoptive parents should be aware that requests for a new, unabridged birth certificate may take the South African Department of Home Affairs several months to complete. More information on other documents that may be required, in addition to the birth certificate, is available on the Department of State’s webpage on travelling to South Africa.
- Adoptive parents who are U.S. citizens are not required to apply for a visa in advance to visit South Africa, for stays up to three months. They may receive a visitor’s visa upon arrival at a port of entry in South Africa. However, travelers who intend to visit South Africa for more than three months must apply for a visa in advance at the South African Embassy or Consulate in the country where they ordinarily reside or where they hold citizenship. More details on application requirements are available on the Department of State’s webpage on travelling to South Africa and the South African Embassy to the United States’ website.
On June 6, 2012, the Department of State’s Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Susan Jacobs, and U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg officials met with the South African Ministry of Social Development’s Central Authority (SACA) to clarify South African intercountry adoption procedures. SACA confirmed that it has authorized two U.S. accredited adoption service providers (ASPs) to contract with South African agencies to process Hague Adoption Convention (Convention) adoptions from South Africa to the United States.
One of the U.S. ASPs is Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children. This ASP may now accept applications for adoptions.
SACA also clarified the options available for dual citizens. U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents residing in the United States must follow the Convention intercountry adoption process if they wish to adopt from South Africa, regardless of whether one or both prospective adoptive parents hold South African citizenship. U.S. citizens resident in South Africa who wish to adopt may be able to conclude a Convention adoption if they plan to bring their adopted child to the United States to live, or may conclude a domesticadoption after meeting South Africa’s five-year residency requirement if they intend to continue residing abroad. In cases where one spouse is a South African citizen, the five-year residency requirement may be waived.
The U.S. Department of State is pleased to have the opportunity to work with South Africa as a Convention partner and to complete Convention intercountry adoptions of eligible children from South Africa by qualified adoptive parents in the United States. Please continue to monitor adoption.state.gov as we update the country information sheet on adoptions from South Africa.
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