Living in South Africa, or anywhere really, having your family’s paperwork in order at all times, is essential! There are some essential personal documentation that you want to ensure are always in your possession and current!


Well, simply, you never know what you will need until you need it. You don’t want to be caught out in the situation where you need something urgently and then it takes Home Affairs MONTHS (or years) to get you the one piece of paper you require? Holidays have been ruined and cancelled, huge amounts of money have been forfeited, and family functions devastated because people book their holidays in advance without checking to make sure they have all the required paperwork. It’s not just people living in SA trying to get out, but holiday makers trying to get in as well!

Travelling Out of SA With Kids!

I’m going to Zimbabwe this weekend, with the girls but without my husband.

Did you know that in order to leave or enter South Africa, you need to have written permission signed by a commissioner of oaths giving the other parent permission to cross the border with your jointly parented children, as well as copies of your children’s UNABRIDGED Birth Certificates?

You read that right. Despite the fact that my husband and I are happily married, I must have written authority from him to go on holiday with OUR children! More on that in another post.

This is also applicable when children travel with family friends, grandparents or school tours! In those situations written authority will have to be granted by BOTH parents.

How Do I Know?

You may have read that my family and I are planning to leave South Africa to move back to the UK. What you may not realise is the complexity of just what this entails. My husband is South African. I am Zimbabwean. Our children were born in Zimbabwe, but as children of a South African they are entitled to both Zimbabwean and South African birth certificates and passports.

We are married (ICOP) and depending which country we decide to live in the non-citizen requires a spouse visa or preferably Permanent Residency. The children have the right to live in both countries, but this requires the paperwork for both countries to be valid.

If your mind is not blow yet, I thought I would share for you a short list of the essential documents you should aim to have handy if you live in South Africa. Especially if you ever plan to cross a border out of the country with your children, although the same rules apply for anyone travelling into South Africa as well, even if that is just on holiday.

List Of Essential Documentation:

Unabridged Birth certificates

This means the birth certificate should include the full details of both parents, including their names, address and ID numbers (preferably).

Why they even bother issuing Abridged Birth Certificates in this day and age is beyond me! They serve NO purpose and basically just hold up any and all applications!

Throughout most of the rest of the world, even in Zimbabwe, all BC’s are automatically Unabridged Birth Certificates. Why South Africa don’t adopt this policy I will never ever understand!

FYI: We applied to Home Affairs for my husband’s UBC 4 weeks ago. We are still waiting …

Please note, this applies to adults as well as children! Don’t just assume that because you are 45 years old your old wrinkly faded abridged birth certificate will be fine. It won’t. You too will need an Unabridged Birth Certificate. You can apply for these are your local Home Affairs office.

Marriage Certificate

Another important essential document.

When you get married in SA you can choose to be married IN Community of Property of OUT of Community Of Property. I urge you to do your homework and clearly understand the implications of the ‘young and in love’ … ‘what’s yours is mine’ … ideal. In my personal experience it has very little benefit! I’m not here to advise, I’m here to urge you to investigate exactly what you’re signing up for, what your options are, and what the pros and cons are!

With regards to essential personal documentation, you need to keep every single piece of paper from that day you got married.

We were married in SA even though at the time we were living in the UK. When it came time to apply for my ID, even after my Permanent Residency had been granted, (Again, a post for another day) I was asked for th BI-30 form – that’s the one the official at the wedding hand writes all your details in! I know! Crazy!

So like I said, just keep everything! Applying for a copy of that from Home Affairs can take months!!!


If you and your family ever intend leaving South Africa to travel anywhere, you need to make sure your passports always have at least six months validity on them before they expire.

Think about it logically: if your passport is set to expire in one months time, and you go on a six-week holiday, your passport will expire whilst you are out of the country. Then what? The chances are they won’t actually even let you enter the country you’re trying to visit. You can kiss the cost of your holiday goodbye! You won’t get a refund!

Thankfully, renewing a passport in South Africa is fairly painless and quite quick actually. Please visit your nearest Home Affairs office in order to find out the costs and turn-around times.

Additional Documents

Other documents you might want to ensure you keep up to date, or at least in your possession are:

  • Current and valid Drivers License or valid international driver’s permit.
  • Residence Permit (if living in a foreign country to that of your birth).
  • Death Certificates
  • Adoption Certificate
  • Parental Responsibility documents
  • Divorce Decree (for ever time you’ve been divorced)
  • Marriage Certificates (for every time you’ve been married)
  • Your Will, especially if you have children and assets
  • All Educational Qualification Certificates and testimonials
  • A Current CV
  • Contactable references in the event you need to apply for a job
  • Proof Of Address from the past three months
  • Your children’s most recent school report

I will do a post in the next few months about travelling in or out of South Africa with children. This will be far more details in terms of how, who and what etc. For now if this is something you need more information on please refer to the South African Department of Home Affairs website for more information.

I’d be interested to know what information you might want to know with regards to essential personal documentation, or travelling in or out of South Africa. If there is a specific topic you’d like me to cover, please let me know.