For many people, the holiday excitement starts months before they hit the road. Planning accommodation, routes and stopovers is part of the fun, but everything can come crashing to a halt if you’ve missed a crucial bit of paperwork, such as a border letter.

“The upcoming June/July school holidays are one of the longest holiday periods of the year, which is a perfect time for South Africans to hit the road and explore the country,” says Rudolf Mahoney, Head of Brand and Communications at WesBank. “But no matter how much you’ve planned your road trip and accommodation; your holiday can be ruined if you’ve forgotten important admin that helps you comply with the law and your vehicle finance contract.”

Driving across the border is not as simple as having a valid passport and driver’s licence. Since last year, the South African government has been actively enforcing laws that require motorists to present extensive documentation when leaving the country. These laws apply to all vehicles – those that are financed and those that are paid off – and are designed to crack down on stolen vehicles being taken out of the country.

Before planning a cross-border trip, drivers should contact their insurance companies to establish that their comprehensive policies are up-to-date and also cover cross-border travel. Incorrect details on a comprehensive insurance policy may lead to a claim being repudiated. If motorists are planning to visit a neighbouring country they may need to include details of their destination. Failure to do so places them at risk of no cover, should their vehicle be stolen or damaged outside South Africa’s borders. Additionally, laws in some countries might hold drivers financially liable for any damage caused.

Any driver who crosses the border in their car is required to have a certified copy of the vehicle’s registration (or licence) papers. Those who have paid off their cars can take their original registration documents to a Commissioner of Oaths to get a certified copy. Motorists with financed vehicles can request a copy of the registration papers from their bank, and have them certified.

Financed vehicles can only be taken out of the country with permission from the financing bank. WesBank has made the border letter and vehicle registration process easier through its online self-service portal. Here, drivers can download copies of their vehicle registration papers as well as digitally request a border letter. Border letters will still need to be certified.

Drivers who are not the registered owner of the vehicle they’re using will need all of the above documentation, plus two additional letters: a police affidavit and a letter of authority from the registered owner, granting permission for the vehicle to cross the border for the agreed timeframe. Drivers of rental vehicles must have a letter from the rental company giving full consent for the vehicle to be taken out of the country.

“These requirements have been around for some time, and drivers should become familiar with the process – especially if they travel to neighbouring countries often. The laws are intended to help combat cross-border theft of cars,” said Mahoney. “It’s a small bit of admin involved in each journey, and WesBank has many systems to assist drivers in complying. Customers who are uncertain of what they need can also contact the bank for clarification of what is required.”

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