Obtaining a South African birth or marriage certificate, however simple it might seem, can be a tedious and time-consuming process if you do not understand the steps involved and try to go at the process independently.
The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is responsible for issuing civic certificates such as birth, marriage, and death certificates. If you lost your original certificate or have to apply for an unabridged version of the document, your records must be fetched from the DHA vault archives before a new certificate can be issued.
What is an unabridged marriage certificate?
Unabridged marriage certificates prove that two people are legally married and that they have a legally binding contract in place. These official records can sometimes serve a dual purpose. Firstly, the certificate proves that nuptials are permissible. Secondly, it indicates that eligible witnesses witnessed the marriage.
Newlyweds are automatically issued with an abridged marriage certificate once their marriage is registered in South Africa (or when married at Home Affairs). You can apply for an unabridged marriage certificate once you are on the Home Affairs system.
Abridged versions of this certificate cannot be used for official purposes outside of South Africa since they do not contain extra details of the parties. Although modern unabridged marriage certificates issued by the DHA no longer have the word UNABRIDGED printed on them, they are still the version you will need when traveling abroad since this is the only version of the certificate that can be apostilled for legal use.
What is an unabridged birth certificate?
Unabridged birth certificates contain the information of your two biological parents or legal guardians. Persons born before 2016 were automatically issued with only the abridged (shortened) version of the birth certificate, but those born after 2016 were automatically issued with unabridged birth certificates, which are now simply referred to as a South African Birth Certificate.
The most significant difference between the abridged and unabridged version of a birth certificate, similar to the marriage certificate, is that the unabridged version contains much more details than the abridged version. These certificates are often required when you must prove your lineage to apply for foreign citizenship. They are also required for visa and immigration processes.
What is a vault copy of a South African birth or marriage certificate?
The DHA registers every new birth of South African citizens, and these records are kept at the DHA Head Office, which is located in Pretoria. These copies of the birth certificates are referred to as “vault” copies. Various documents can be stored as vault copies, including marriage certificates.
In most cases, you will have to submit unabridged marriage and birth certificates when applying for foreign passports and visas. These are only issued once a vault copy of your original document is located. You will also need a vault copy of your birth certificate should you need to prove your lineage.
The problem, however, is that obtaining these vault copies can often take months, and it is a complicated process. The Home Affairs official looking at your application for the document has to go into the state archives and find the actual original copy of the document. Since the archives are not on site, and not in very good order (for those archives we have seen), the search takes a very long time, if the vault certificate is to be found at all! For vault certificates older than 1950, there is no guarantee that it is still safely filed away.
How Apostil.co.za can help
Locating the file in the DHA vault is a lengthy process. It can see you waiting months, and in rare cases, even years, if you go at the process on your own. However, the team of document experts at Apostil.co.za might be able to assist in a matter of weeks.
In order for us to help you obtain your certificates and their vault copies, we will need the following:
- A clear scanned copy of your ID document in PDF format
- The completed application form, scanned in PDF format
- Copies of both your parents’ ID documents, scanned in PDF format, if possible
We cannot always estimate an exact timeframe. Timing all depends on how easily accessible your details are in the archives. However, our process generally takes anywhere between three and six weeks. Keep in mind that it may take up to eight weeks in rare cases. Doing the entire application on your own usually means the process takes 3-6 months.
Get in touch with our team of experts today to learn more about our services and how we can help you obtain your legal documents.