SA travel

Spain and Norway lift entry bans on SA. Image : AdobeStock

Three things you must never do to your South African documents and certificates

(Partner Content) While you might want to protect your South African documents and certificates in the best way possible, the best and most effective way to safely store them is also the simplest of them all. But before we get to how you should protect your documents, here’s a rundown of three things you should never do with your official papers.

SA travel

Spain and Norway lift entry bans on SA. Image : AdobeStock

Wait! Don’t laminate!

Laminating is a great way to protect fragile materials like paper against damage from liquids, dirt and grease, but sometimes, lamination just isn’t the best idea. Important documents from the Department of Home Affairs (including birth, death, divorce, and marriage certificates) or SAPS should never be laminated. It’s also not advisable to laminate documentation that has to do with vehicle registration, business ownership or property ownership.

Most official documents have embossed security seals, stamps and other markings to help prove that the documents are authentic. When you laminate your documents, these markings are effectively flattened out, making it that much harder to prove that they’re authentic. Lamination also decreases a document’s ability to be photocopied thanks to the reflective polythene texture of the plastic used in the lamination process. 

Finally, DIRCO and other government departments cannot process (e.g. apostille) a laminated document as it is considered “altered”.

Never alter your documents in any way

This includes gluing them to other papers or cardboard paper, cutting the edges, or punching holes in them for filing. Just like lamination, alterations can make it almost impossible to prove that a document is authentic. Even something as small as a pen mark on an official document can deem your certificate invalid and void, and the schlep in getting them replaced will cost you dearly. 

Don’t send your documents via post, ONLY use a courier service

If your documents have to be sent somewhere, only use a courier to send the original certificates. Whatever you do, don’t use SA’s postal service to get your documents from point A to point B. The SA postal system (and some other postal services across the world) often delay the delivery of parcels, and there’s a high probability that your documents could get lost too. Even using a good postal service abroad means that once the document arrives in SA, it enters the SA postal system.

Relying on a courier service is your best option to ensure your documents get where they need to be within a reliable time frame. Couriering documents might be more expensive, but it’s much safer and more effective than traditionally posting your documents. 

Bonus tip: Always keep digital copies of all your important documents

Keeping your files stored in digital format can often help you obtain new ones in the event that your original document somehow goes missing or gets damaged. Document assistance service – like – can help you obtain new copies of your lost or damaged documents in much less time if you have a copy of the original in digital format. 

In fact, sometimes government departments, like the Department of Home Affairs, actually lose records, or move them to off-site storage, and a digital or hard copy of the document is essential to prove that the records were lost.

What is the best way to store South African documents and certificates?

The best thing you can do for your SA documents is to place them inside transparent plastic sleeves and file them in a protective file or box. This way, they’ll be protected and legally acceptable for official use. Make a digital copy and save this in various places, as well as email these documents to yourself for safekeeping.

The cost and effort of re-obtaining documentation is too high – guard your documents carefully!