The Extra Mile
My passport is almost full - how long does it take to get a new one?
Our travel editor has the answer
Q. I urgently need to renew my South African passport as my current one is almost full and I am told that immigration officials have the right to refuse to allow me to exit the country. Is this correct? And how fast can I get a new passport. - B Van Vuuren
A. Having just gone through the process myself, I am happy to tell you that the new way of getting your passport renewed - or getting a new ID book, for that matter - has turned one of the most arduous, bureaucratic, time-wasting tasks into an absolute pleasure.
Firstly, your concern about whether officials can bar you from getting on the plane is correct.
After eight years of regular cross-border travel, my passport was a couple of stamps away from being full. This was not helped by the fact that immigration officials like to thud their rubber stamps onto the pages at odd angles on any page they like.
Furthermore, along with a minimum of six months' validity, many countries insist that you have at least a couple of clean, stamp-free pages in your passport before they will issue you a visa.
On a recent trip to the UK, the clerk at the British Airways check-in balked at my passport. While he agreed to check me in, he was convinced that immigration would not let me through as there was barely space for three stamps in my passport. As it happened, the immigration official was not bothered.
Suitably chastened, I applied for a new passport on the Home Affairs e-portal and was blown away by the excellent and rapid service.
The process is simple. Visit Home Affairs and create a profile. Then book an appointment to record your biometric data. If you live in Joburg, Pretoria or Cape Town, you will be able to select a bank branch that has Home Affairs facilities (in my case it was Standard Bank's Killarney branch).
I made the booking, paid the R400 fee online and appeared at the bank at the appointed time for fingerprints and photographs. The entire process took about 20 minutes - but I made sure to be there when the bank opened at 9am.
The turnaround was rapid: exactly a week later, Home Affairs notified me by SMS that my passport was ready for collection. It's as easy as it gets.
See Home Affairs for information.
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