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What is the fastest way to get an unabridged birth certificate in South Africa?

By January 11, 2023October 5th, 2023FinGlobal

What is the fastest way to get an unabridged birth certificate in South Africa?

January 11, 2023


South Africans travelling abroad, whether for recreational purposes or emigration, require a copy of their unabridged birth certificate. One could say it’s one of the most crucial documents needed for travel planning, visa applications, and emigration, and yet, a South African birth certificate is one that can take the longest to obtain! Our blog looks at how to apply for your unabridged birth certificate South Africa and what to do to expedite your application.

What is an unabridged birth certificate?

Most South Africans are familiar with the abridged birth certificate, which up until April 2016, was the standard South African birth certificate supplied by the Department of Home Affairs. Essentially, abridged birth certificates are a summary of the unabridged certificate.

This means they show far less detail than their unabridged counterparts. For example, abridged birth certificates detail the name and surname of the child’s biological mother, the child’s full name, sex, and date of birth. On the other hand, an unabridged birth certificate South Africa provides more detail. It shows the child’s full name, birth date, country of birth, ID number, sex, and the details of both biological parents or legal guardians.

South African vault birth certificate

Considered the unicorn of birth certificates due to the time (months/years) they can take to obtain, South African vault birth certificates are stored in a vault at the South African Home Affairs HQ in Pretoria. The clue is in the name!

A South African vault birth certificate is a photocopy of the original hand-written application for a birth record when registering the birth of a child. These birth certificates are considered the most accurate record of a child’s birth. Copies are stamped (pink Home Affairs stamp) and signed by a South African Home Affairs official.

This type of South African birth certificate is usually required in the following circumstances:

  • Applications for naturalisation / foreign passports
  • Immigration
  • Residency visa applications
  • Marriage to foreign nationals

When is an unabridged birth certificate required?

Since June 2015, the South African Department of Home Affairs has implemented new travel regulations to combat child trafficking. These stipulate that all South Africans under the legal age limit (18 years) must carry a copy of their unabridged birth certificate when travelling in or out of the country. This is in addition to letters of parental consent. However, an unabridged South African birth certificate is also required in the following instances:

  • Emigration
  • Overseas marriages
  • International travel purposes
  • Visa applications

How to get a South African unabridged birth certificate quickly

You’re bound to be disappointed if you search for a way to apply for South African birth certificates online. Unfortunately, all unabridged birth certificate applications must be physically lodged with the South African Department of Home Affairs. However, applications can also be processed at South African consulates, missions, and embassies. Below we have detailed what you will need.

  • Your South African Identity Document (certified copy)
  • Certified copies of both biological parent’s South African Identity Documents
  • Completed BI-154 form (in black ink)

Once you have completed the BI-154 form, it must be submitted to the nearest:

  • South African Department of Home Affairs – if you are in South Africa
  • South African embassy, consulate, or mission – if you are based abroad

How long does it take to get an unabridged certificate South Africa?

This is often the first question South Africans ask when they are advised a copy of their unabridged certificate is required, and for a good reason! Many of us have experienced the long queues at Home Affairs!

Furthermore, once the application is submitted, it can take between six to eight weeks (sometimes longer) to receive notification that the birth certificate is ready for collection – which obviously means more queuing! Unfortunately, a lack of staff and the huge demand for copy documents culminate in this rather long and tedious process!

Of course, you may prefer to entrust your unabridged birth certificate application to an online company offering this process as part of their services, but this may come at an additional cost.

How much does an unabridged birth certificate cost?

Unabridged birth certificates issued after a child’s birth has been registered (within 30 days of birth) are free; however, additional copies incur fees. These charges may vary depending on the department, consulate, or mission used; however, in South Africa, the cost is currently R75.00.


Applying for an unabridged South African birth certificate certainly provides its share of frustration. However, Saffas, born after April 2016, will automatically have been issued a free unabridged birth certificate. But, of course, that isn’t much help unless you are six years old! Unfortunately, those with old-style abridged South African birth certificates will need to apply for an unabridged birth certificate copy, pay the fee and play the waiting game! Our advice to those wondering how to get a South African unabridged birth certificate quickly is to ensure you have all the correct documentation and the correct fee to hand when making your application.

Expert emigration advice for SA expats at FinGlobal

Emigration is certainly no walk in the park, especially when gathering all the necessary documents for your travel plans, unless you have the FinGlobal team on your side!

Our bespoke immigration plans are created to suit your circumstances and individual needs, from your first emigration query to your final destination. If you need top-notch advice backed by extensive industry experience and accreditation, FinGlobal is for you! For advice on pensions, tax, retirement annuities, forex, and more, contact the team today!

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