Original documents issued by the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) are called vault documents. These documents, which are typed-up records, are kept in storage warehouses, called the DHA archives or “vaults”.
At times, especially when applying for official processes like citizenship abroad, you might be required to submit vault copies of your legal documents, including birth and marriage certificates.
Why are vault documents so important?
Whenever a South African citizen is born, the original registration paperwork is stored at the archival offices of the DHA. The same process is followed when someone gets married or a death is registered. These documents, which are stored in the vault, are proof that certificates issued to South African citizens contain the correct information.
As the name implies, a vault copy is an authentic copy of the original registration form. The “vault” is merely the name for the archives where these documents are stored. One can have vault copies for a number of documents, but usually, only birth, death or marriage certificates are required by South African citizens. Divorce decrees are held by the High Court in which the divorce order was granted.
When would you need a vault copy?
Many foreign passport and visa-issuing authorities require vault copies of documents to be submitted as part of the vetting process. Vault documents are seen as protective measures to help combat fraud, as typed documents are vulnerable to forgery.
Unfortunately, obtaining these vault copies is not simple and can take many months, if not years. This is due to the fact that most DHA archives are pretty disorganised, and a search can take very long or even be abandoned.
The clear advice to our clients is to start planning early. Even if you do not currently have a need for the vault copies of your birth or marriage certificates, it’s better to apply for them and have them in hand when you need them most than to find out that an official process like applying for foreign citizenship might potentially be derailed by the fact that your vault copies are hard to track down.
How long does it take to obtain vault copies of South African records?
When applying for these records on your own, it can take a few months to obtain vault copies. And in rare cases, it can even take years. The process is further delayed by the fact that courier bags need to be filled up before they are dispatched to various branches of Home Affairs.
In the event where the DHA is unable to retrieve your documents from the vault, they might attempt to search for the document a second time, but after this attempt fails, the document will be classified as lost. This is why it is absolutely imperative to take good care of your original documents and make your own copies of them (hard and digital format copies).
Need assistance with obtaining vault copies of your documents
Apostil.co.za has the ability to have the search for vault copies prioritised for our clients. We are a document assistance service. We specialise in helping our clients apply for and obtain their legal, personal, and official documents hassle-free. Explore our range of pricing and options today to find a solution that meets your needs.