All you ever wanted to know about ‘ROSA’

ROSA is the acronym for the ‘Registration of South Africans Abroad’, a software programme developed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation allowing travellers to register online so that the department can locate them during an emergency – crime, natural or manmade disasters, civil unrest, etc. and assist them in the event of an emergency. 

The registration is a free, voluntary service and is only available to South African citizens who are travelling, living or working abroad.

1.    What can DIRCO assist me with abroad?

When problems happen abroad, they can make one’s situation even more traumatic. This can include falling ill; becoming a victim of crime, assault or kidnapping; loss of documents (lost or stolen passports); or requiring mortal remains to be repatriated after death. DIRCO can:

  • Assist in obtaining certificates or documentation from local authorities, for example during a case of death.
  • Guide South Africans (in a specific Country) on actions to be taken during a man-made or natural disaster.
  • Gain access to South African citizens who have been arrested or detained in order to establish facts and communicate the situation with the detainees family (if he or she so desires). Conduct Prison visits to visit South African citizens who are imprisoned.
  • Assist to arrange for funds to be transferred from South Africa which was deposited by friends or family.

2.    Will DIRCO be able to provide me with funds to assist me to travel back home?

We do not pay any bills or give you money. The assistance provided by the DIRCO, in the case of an emergency, is of a non-financial nature, and the DIRCO will not be responsible for payment of legal, medical, travelling expenses or any other expenses on behalf of the traveller. Consider full travel insurance or an overseas health plan. In exceptional circumstances, and when everything else has been exhausted, we may provide a once off refundable loan from public funds to help you return to South Africa.  You will have to sign an agreement to repay the loan in full.

3.    What can I do if I’ve lost my passport abroad?

Be prepared to pay for some types of consular assistance, for example, issuing an emergency passport (we do not make a profit from these charges). DIRCO, through its offices abroad (consular officials at Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General) can assist with civic services normally performed by the Department of Home Affairs. These services include:

  1. Birth registrations
  2. Death registrations
  3. Passports and emergency travel documents
  4. Acting as marriage officer where both parties are South African citizens.

4.    Can DIRCO assist with legal documents such as divorce papers?

Yes, consular officials also perform the following functions:

  1.  Facilitate the process of serving divorce papers, through judicial channels served on defendants abroad.
  2.   Perform Legalisation services where a (South African) public document originating in South Africa will be presented to a foreign institution or company. (The process is referred to as authentication.)

5.    If I’m arrested, how will DIRCO help?

Firstly, be a responsible traveller. Respect the culture and customs of the country you visit. If you are arrested, detained or imprisoned, government, through DIRCO, will ensure that you are treated as humanely as possible (according to the United Nations minimum standards dealing with the incarceration of offenders). DIRCO, through its Consular Services, conducts prison visits through its Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General abroad. Local Legislation and regulations have to be respected and the South African Government will not interfere or attempt to circumvent to Laws of a sovereign Country.

6.    Do I have any rights when arrested or detained abroad?

If you are arrested or held in custody or prison in a country abroad, the authorities in that country should ask you whether you want them to contact the South African Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. However, you can also ask for this to be done.

  • We will aim to contact you, depending on local procedures, within 48 hours of being told about your arrest or detention.
  • If you want us to, we will then aim to visit you as soon as possible.
  • We treat all prisoners the same no matter what crime they are being held for.
  • We cannot get you out of prison or detention, nor can we get special treatment for you because you are South African.
  • If you want us to, we can tell your family or friends that you have been arrested.
  • We can offer basic information about the local legal system, including whether a legal-aid scheme is available.
  • We can offer you information about the local prison including visiting arrangements, mail and censorship, privileges, work possibilities, and social and welfare services.

7.    Will DIRCO pay my bail?

No. Consular officials cannot get you out of prison, prevent the local authorities from deporting you after your prison sentence or interfere in criminal or civil court proceedings. Our staff cannot replace specialist advisers such as counsellors or lawyers. Consular officials cannot provide legal advice, investigate crimes or carry out searches for missing people.

8.    How will DIRCO assist a family member sentenced to death abroad?

Although the South African Government cannot interfere in the judicial processes in other countries, should a South African national receive the death penalty, the Government will make a plea for clemency as the Constitution of the Republic does not recognise capital punishment.

It is current practice for DIRCO to inform the Minister immediately after becoming aware of a South African who receives a death sentence. DIRCO will recommend that the Minister (or in some instances the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development) writes to the Foreign Minister in the country that pronounced the sentence, appealing to that country to commute the death sentence to that of an appropriate term or life imprisonment.  This approach is regrettably not fully effective and experience has shown that these appeals are not always favourably considered or acceded to.

Diplomatic/consular missions are required to visit and ensure prisoners on death row receive the same treatment as any other prisoners and priority attention must be given to detainees who may receive or who have already received the death sentence. The frequency of visits and attendance of court hearings will as in all cases be determined after the consideration of the operational requirements and the availability of funds at the South African diplomatic/consular mission.

9.    Does government promise get me out of any situation at any cost?

Like any organisation, we have a duty of care for our employees. We will not send staff into a situation where we judge that their safety could be seriously at risk.

10.Will DIRCO assist me with my travel arrangements, getting accommodation or perhaps a job overseas?

No, DIRCO officials do not make travel arrangements for you, or find you work or accommodation.

11.What assistance will DIRCO provide if a family member of friend dies abroad?

By law, countries have to inform another of the death of one of its nationals.

  • We provide guidance/support for families in confirming the death and obtaining details from local authorities.
  • We confirm the identity of the deceased.
  • Assist in obtaining the death certificate from local authorities; obtain a permit for importing the mortal remains from the Department of Health; assist loved ones with contact details of reputable undertakers; and assist in obtaining an indication of the costs to be incurred for transportation of the mortal remains and/or cremation and/or local burial etc., if requested.
  • Government does not render any financial assistance pertaining to the death of South African citizens abroad.

For more information, visit


Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)
Chief Directorate:  Consular Services
Tel:  +27 12 351-1000 (24-hour switchboard)