The department of home affairs has reiterated that the requirement for an unabridged birth certificate for children travelling with their parents no longer applies, but the parents must still carry it anyway – in case customs officials ask to see it at ports of entry.

This follows a huge outcry among travellers who claimed they were stopped at ports of entry by customs staff who demanded the unabridged certificate for their children, despite the announcement by the department it was no longer a requirement.

The department of tourism recently said tourism supports about 1.5 million jobs directly and indirectly in SA. StatsSA figures for 2016 show the sector directly contributed 2.9% – or R125.1 billion – to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

When the initial requirements were first issued, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom took issue with the home affairs decision, saying the move would kill tourism in SA and impede economic growth. Home affairs was forced to back off.

Reacting to complaints, tourism spokesperson Siya Qoza yesterday said the prescription to produce an unabridged birth certificate was no longer a requirement.

“Only in instances where immigration officials have a reason to suspect wrongdoing, will they ask for documents.”

Qoza said travellers must still carry the certificate in case it was needed at a port of entry for the purpose of investigating a suspect criminal activity by an individual.

If there was something suspicious, immigration officers could stop a traveller and ask questions to seek clarity, and may also ask for minor’s birth certificate.

“So it is important parents carry the certificate and other relevant documents in case,” he said.

However, if a child was travelling with both parents, there would be no need to produce proof of a relationship. But if the child was travelling with one parent, a written consent of the parent remaining behind would be required to show he or she gave permission for the child to travel with second parent.

Qoza said the only document required would be an affidavit from the non-travelling parent. It must indicate that the non-travelling parent was aware of the child’s travel and that he or she gave permission.

The department was reacting to reports that a large number of travellers were being stopped at ports of entry and exit and asked for unabridged birth certificates for the children they travelled with – despite the department having reversed the regulations on this.

Some complaints on social media, however, contradict this, claiming officials demanded the documents even in the presence of both parents.

In a Twitter message this week, Hanekom asked the home affairs department to ensure it did the right thing to avoid interfering with tourists to the country.

In his tweet, the minister wrote: “Let me repeat. I hope @ HomeAffairsSA reads this. Both parents travelling with their children with passports of a visa exempt country: NO additional documentation required. One parent or adult accompanying the child: you MAY be required to prove the relationship with the child.”

In September, the department indicated its intention to scrap the regulations that required parents who travel with minors to produce an unabridged certificate at ports of entry. Recently, former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said a consent form would still be required from both parents for a child to leave the country.

But parents would no longer need to produce a certificate in the name of the minor, because the details appear on the parent’s passport under the new set-up.