On 23 May 2020, the Department of Home Affairs (“DHA”) has confirmed that international travel will be permitted for South Africans to travel out of South Africa, should they fall within one of the (limited) categories as outlined by the DHA. The main categories which are being considered for those who are required to travel are: work, study, to take up permanent residency, medical conditions and/or family reunions.

These categories provide concessions towards many situations South Africans find themselves in, and where international travel is an important consideration, there is a special onus on the reconciliation of family members globally.

Getting parent(s) out of South Africa

We have seen an increase concern about the state of readiness of South Africa over the following four to six months as the virus works its way through society. Government’s publicized “peak” is between August or September 2020, with some experts weighing in this may be more end July 2020. The questions remain on how South Africa as a society will deal herewith, adhering to the rules of good hygiene, social distancing and protecting the vulnerable categories.

Many families are undergoing severe distress due to separation and isolation following the travel bans that have been implemented globally. The family reunion category announced by the South African Department of Home Affairs provides the perfect window of opportunity for concerned SAFFA expats abroad to be reunited with their parent(s) and/or grandparent(s) currently stuck in South Africa.

Whether these loved ones are frail, isolated, at risk to the Corona Virus in South Africa and/or if it has always been the plan to relocate them abroad, now may be opportune time to make use of the concessions to get them safely abroad, and with relaxed requirements.

Will parents be safer in South Africa or abroad?

This is the important decision which each family needs to make, and no situation is exactly the same. On the one hand, keeping one’s parents or older generation in a familiar environment is extremely important for some.

Push factors include there being no quality of life where they are effectively in lockdown from the virus, they stay in a society not known for its remarkable degree of adherence to rules and questions on how effective the health system will deal with the pandemic. Some clients have also indicated that they would rather move their parents closer to them and a country which has already passed the “peak” and they foresee a better chance overseas than in South Africa.

Opinions are very much divided hereon, but the Department of Home Affairs should be applauded for recognizing that families with means should be allowed to reunite and there is a benefit to all where parents are safely with the children.

Application requirements

A typical application would require a copy of valid South African passport page, a letter from the country they will be travelling to confirming admissibility, permission for transiting countries, proof of means of travel and the intended date of departure.

The international travel is however subject to South African Department of Home Affairs’s approval and which is required before one may proceed with any travel arrangements. Currently, the complexity of this process is unclear, and albeit one would expect the normal strict Home Affairs protocols to be followed, there will be the normal leniency on properly motivated cases.

Assistance for two or more loved ones

The new dispensation additionally makes provision that a ‘group application’ may be submitted to the DHA should there be more than one relative required to travel out of South Africa. This will thus be a single application and the supporting information/documentation must then be sent for each member of the group.

Where you need more information hereon, have a more complex or sensitive situation which needs assistance, more information is shared on https://www.xpatweb.com/covid-19-international-travel-for-south-africans/ and please contact travel@xpatweb.com.

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Marisa Jacobs