What you need to know when applying for a South African Passport

I think we’ve all had thoughts or an impulse at one time or another to pack up a bag and set off to an exotic location for some kind of reprieve from the everyday humdrum and monotonous routine! I mean, who wouldn’t want a temporary escape from all the chaos! But once we’ve decided to make that dream a reality; we soon realise that to get to said exotic location and to be able to squeeze in that much needed rest and relaxation, we first have to navigate through a string of  stressful processes which starts with getting yourself and your family a passport!

Now we’ve all heard terrifying stories from people who have gone to Home Affairs and vow never to go back again; but the reality is that sometimes we’ve just got to suck it up and dive into it because the end definitely justifies the means. I can’t say I’ve had the same unpleasant experience when going in to renew my family’s travel documents recently; and I know there’s so many people who find the prospect of going in and getting documents done, daunting; so I’ve compiled a list of what to expect and also added a few things that made the whole process easier for me.
  • First, choose a Home Affairs office that is convenient for you. We went to the Wynberg office in Cape Town.
  • From here, it’s important to know that they only allocate a certain number of people for applications everyday; be it passports, ID’s, unabridged birth certificates etc. Collections and other requests is a separate queue. For Wynberg, that number is 200 and that number may vary at other Home Affairs branches.
  •  It’s advised to get there early so that you can get a number which indicates where you will be in the queue and how soon you will be seen to. Obviously some days you could be luckier than others and the outcome cannot be predicted.
  • Home Affairs opens at 8am, but people start queuing for numbers from as early as 6am. The earlier you get there, the smaller your number, the sooner you will be seen to.
  • Important to note that I did not, in fact queue outside at 6am.
  • After dropping the kids at school, I went straight through to get myself a number (By me, I actually mean my sister…she’s the one who actually got me the number 159 – which means I was 159th in the queue).
  • Once you know more or less where you are in the queue, you can either stay and wait for the doors to open; or, if like me, there’s no chance you are going to be seen to in the immediate future; you can go about your daily chores and return in an hour or two…or three!
  • Having a number guarantees that you will be seen to – within reason of course! You can’t rock up there at closing time and expect to be attended to. Also note, doors close at 4pm. 
  • On a side note, once you have your number and decide to stay and wait, you queue outside the office and they let you in in groups at a time. This could take ages.
  • Kids and BOTH parents MUST be present when applying for  passports of minors!
  • I fetched the kids early from school that day and returned to Home Affairs at about 1pm. My number still wasn’t called and there was an estimated wait of about an hour….so I took the kids for lunch.
  • We returned just after 2pm and we were let in to get the whole process started! We applied for Passports and Unabridged certificates for the kids as this has become essential when travelling with minors. There was a long queue where we had to pay for the documents we were applying for, but this gave me enough time to fill out the forms required for the unabridged certificates while husband stood in the queue.
  • The whole process of applying for Passports, Unabridged certificates and ID cards took just over 2 1/2 hours and left us with just enough money to pay for parking!!! Also, things have become a lot more Hi-tech and seamless since we last applied for passports.
  • The kids were helluva annoying after the first hour and a half.
  • It’s important to note that the people behind the desk deal with A LOT of people with varying personalities on a daily basis. This can’t be an easy job for them and I know that as frustrating and time consuming as we find the whole process to be, a little compassion and humility towards the people behind the desk goes a long way. I found them to be extra helpful when treated with a little kindness and having a sense of humour about it all.
  • We received our Unabridged Certificates on the same day, and the passports were ready within a week!
  • To collect or documents we followed a similar procedure, only this time we got a number for the collections queue instead of applications.
  • Both parents don’t have to be present for collections.
  • Overall, I didn’t have a bad experience. I think I resigned myself to the fact that it would be a long wait, and this made me a bit more patient towards the process.
  • You can also completely avoid the afore mentioned procedure by applying for your documents online here. Home Affairs has teamed up with Standard Bank to simplify the process and make it easier and convenient, without have to stand in queues.( Thanks to the two lovely readers, Dilshaad and Mariam, for sharing this information with me😊. )
And now that we are proud owners of brand new passports and all our travel documents are in order,  all that’s left to do is to pack that suitcase…plus a whole lot of other last minute running around before we are 100% ready to take off!! Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading!!

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