It’s reached that point in time where we have to start applying to get Jessica into school, and one of the things on the required list in terms of support documentation is of course a valid birth certificate. However, when I rummage through my files and pull out the birth certificates I get a yellow abridged birth certificate for Jessica (2010), and a white/green unabridged birth certificate for Emily (2014).

Schools require an unabridged birth certificate which then raises the question: What is the difference between an abridged and unabridged birth certificate?


In South Africa historically there were two types of official birth certificates, namely the abridged and unabridged versions. Although distinct documents, both are considered authentic and thus you could previously make do with just an abridged version as long as you are a natural citizen and live in South Africa itself.

Issued by the Department of Home Affairs, an abridged birth certificate is a document that contains details about the birth of a person such as his or her identity number, full name and country of origin. An abridged birth certificate is issued within minutes or hours (i.e. you can pretty much get it straight after the birth, useful for signing up for medical aid and so forth), whereas it takes between 6 weeks to 6 months to issue an unabridged birth certificate.

The difference? An unabridged birth certificate contains everything that the abridged birth certificate does, but adds to that content the identity information of both registered parents.

Up until 2013, you would get an abridged birth certificate following the birth of your child, and then later go and apply for the unabridged version, but since then, the Department of Home Affairs have streamlined the process and now unabridged certificates are issued on the spot, thereby reducing the turn-around time being experienced when applying for the abridged birth certificate at that time.

In other words, the difference is the added parents’ details on the unabridged version, and more importantly, it would seem that I now need to make a trip to Home Affairs in order to organise an unabridged birth certificate for Jessica because in the end, that is now the only one that matters!