One of the things many South Africans dread is going to stand at a queue at Home Affairs. It’s easily the busiest government department – queues snake around buildings for kilometres. You’re possibly going to queue in the blazing hot sun, or on a rainy day, or if you’re a lucky Capetonian a Southeaster so vicious the wind will make you dance involuntarily.
At some point every South African will need something from Home Affairs so when the government announced that online registration was possible I jumped for joy. Of course, at the time of the announce my passport still had some time on it but the end of 2017 rolled around and I realised mine was going to expire a couple of months into the new year.
No time like the present to test the new online system and let me tell you it worked for me. The only thing I wish is that the online system already extended to FNB bank branches in Cape Town. Currently only their Joburg clients have access to biometrics facilities. So while the online system works for us in Cape Town and the rest of SA, we still need to go to a Home Affairs office to get our photo and fingerprints taken. You do get to bypass all the different queues though and you’re done in less than an hour from the time the branch opens provided you get there early.
Just please note that the whole process is not online. You still have to either visit a branch or bank but the time spent there is a lot shorter if you do the basics online first.
A note from Home Affairs on the matter.
“A branch visit is mandatory for the capture and verification of your biometric detail (photos, fingerprints and signature). No appointment/booking is required to visit any Home Affairs office.”
Let me walk you through my experience.
Step one: Register on Home Affairs
It’s safe and easy and it makes use of a one-time pin system connected to the phone number you provide. Every time you log in you’ll get a message to your phone with a pin to use for that login.
Step two: Fill out your applications online
This part is very quick. Select the item you’re applying for. In my case it was a passport but I also had an option to apply for my smart ID card. I’m going to apply for that online next time as well.
Just make sure you have spelled everything correctly and you’ve inputted the right details everywhere. Be very thorough.
Here is a handy how-to guide from Home Affairs.
Step three: Make your payment
The system is quite fancy. You input your banking details and when you log onto your own online bank account profile there’ll be a pending payment for your to approve from Home Affairs. Once you’ve approved you go back to the Home Affairs site and you’ll see it picks up that you’ve paid. Now you’re ready for the next step.
Step four: Print your document
By now you’ve filled out your details correctly, made a payment online, and the system will ask you to print along a document with a QR code to bring along with you.
The only tricky thing is that it must download in Adobe reader and then you’d be able to print it. I struggled with this a bit because I kept thinking my form wasn’t downloading. This was what I got every time I tried to download.
After I installed Adobe Reader, I printed the form and I was ready to go queue for my biometrics.
Step five: Biometrics
If you’re in Joburg, you can simply make an appointment with one of four FNB branches on that side. For the rest of us stuck in 1955, we need to go to our nearest branch. For me that was in Barrack Street, Cape Town.
I went to queue from just after 06:30. The queues at that time weren’t bad – only around 50 people ahead of me. (I wonder what time these folk got up!) As I joined the queue it grew and grew so by the time the offices opened at 08:00 the queue was right around the corner of the building.
I have found our new hero, guys. She’s sitting on a thingie that’s also a cooler bag. She came prepared. pic.twitter.com/lHNoJXT4re
— From My Fingertips (@Aneeqah) January 3, 2018
But then a magical thing happened. A man came looking for online applications and there were very few of us. So we got to go inside, get a number (this part took a few minutes because there was an older aunty who was having some issues), have our fingerprints and pics taken, and then our details quickly confirmed. I was out of there in 45 minutes after they opened.
Almost done. Woohoo pic.twitter.com/vQiD3VNwlJ
— From My Fingertips (@Aneeqah) January 3, 2018
After that it’s a matter of days’ wait until your can collect your document.
Step 6: Collecting your document
Five days after I went for my biometrics, I got a message from Home Affairs telling me my passport was ready to be collected. There is a separate collections queue and these people get to go inside first. I went around the same time as I went when I went for my biometrics. This time, I was in for all of 5 minutes before I left with my new passport in hand.
And that’s it.
Here are some other questions you guys sent me on the process via Instagram.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU HAVE A VALID VISA ATTACHED TO YOUR PASSPORT?
If you still have a valid visa attached to your old passport, travel with both passports to said country until that visa expires. This was the advice given to me by Home Affairs as I still have one valid visa attached to my old passport.
CAN I DO THIS FROM THE COUNTRY I’M LIVING IN?
From my research it seems that expat South Africans still have to visit the SA consulate where they live, for biometrics especially. They need to confirm that you’re actually you. The wait time remains 4 to 6 months as the document has to come all the way from South Africa. If your passport has a year left on it and you know you’re going to travel out of the country you’re living in next year, I’d apply as soon as possible.
CAN I APPLY FOR MY CHILD’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE/PASSPORT ONLINE?
There is an option to apply for your minor’s documents.