Goodbye Home Affairs hell — Bank branch passport renewal tested

I recently renewed my passport at Home Affairs in a bank branch and was very impressed with the service and quick turnaround time.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and major banks first launched the option to do Smart ID card and passport applications via select bank branches in 2016.

It has slowly grown to around 30 locations, including branches from Absa, Discovery Bank, FNB, Investec, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.

My passport was set to expire in October 2024, and because many countries require that your passport be valid for six months from a travel date, a renewal was due.

I am an FNB customer, and numerous people have had previous positive experiences when using the eHomeAffairs route.

Rather than trying my luck at a traditional Home Affairs office, I filed my renewal application online and booked my biometrics capture visit at a nearby bank branch.

On Monday, 22 April 2024, I signed up for an eHomeAffairs profile for the first time and completed my passport renewal application. This took about 20 minutes.

It included creating an account using my ID number and email address, as well as setting up two-factor authentication (2FA) with my cellphone number.

Both the email address and cellphone number had to be verified before I could access the eHomeAffairs portal.

The eHomeAffairs login page requires that users enter their login details and complete a Captcha every time. An OTP sent via SMS must also be entered on each occasion.

For the passport renewal application, I needed to provide details such as my ID number, home address, my spouse’s information, and my preferred location for collection.

Credentials like my name, surname and ID number were prepopulated in the DHA-73 form.

After submitting, I was asked to select my preferred branch to capture my fingerprints, signature and a new photo.

My bank offered two branch options in the greater Tshwane area — one in Pretoria East and the other in Centurion.

The Centurion branch did not have an open slot available for two weeks.

Fortunately, the other branch had a slot at 10:00 the next day — Tuesday, 23 April 2024.

After selecting this slot, the payment of R600 was due. This was the only unintuitive part of the process.

Home Affairs does not perform regular card payments; instead, it issues an instruction to your bank that you must approve.

This did not generate a notification in the FNB app, and finding where to approve this request was challenging.

After a quick Google Search, I determined the payment request should be in a section of FNB Internet banking called “Smart ID + Passport”.

After approving the request, I could continue on the eHomeAffairs website and complete my booking.

I received an email and SMS confirmation with the time and date of my appointment within minutes.

A subsequent “1st Notice” email said I must bring my original ID book/card and a barcoded eHomeAffairs “Application Confirmation” to my appointment, which was supposed to be available on the website.

However, I could not find this document anywhere. Instead, I took a screenshot of the booking reference number on the confirmation page and hoped this would suffice.

Fortunately, the DHA had a list with all the names and ID numbers of people with appointments on the day, and I did not have to present any documents other than my ID.

A notice outside the FNB branch where I applied for my passport renewal.

Capturing my biometrics, including fingerprints and a photo of my face, took less than 10 minutes from my arrival at the branch.

I arrived at 09:54, six minutes before my booking, and a helpful bank employee pointed me to a dedicated queue for smart ID and passport applications outside the branch.

I was first in the outside queue, but several people with Smart ID and passport renewals were already being helped inside the branch.

The queue behind me quickly grew by a further five or so people, but by 09:58, we were taken into the branch and instructed to sit and wait for our turn.

Because I was first in this batch of applicants, I was first to be helped at one of the counters.

The DHA employee was friendly and professional and completed the process in less than five minutes.

This included scanning my thumb for a fingerprint, photographing my face, and signing twice on a digital signature pad. There was no paperwork whatsoever.

The DHA employee who assisted me said I would be notified when my passport was ready for collection and reminded me to bring my ID along.

The fingerprint reader used to scan my thumbprint for the passport renewal at the Home Affairs branch in FNB Lynnwood.
The photo booth for passport and Smart ID card photos at the Home Affairs branch in FNB Lynnwood.

I received an SMS and email that my passport was ready for collection late afternoon on Tuesday, 30 April 2024.

This was after the DHA branch had closed at 15:30, and with 1 May being a public holiday, the earliest I could pick up the passport was 2 May 2024. No appointment was necessary for collection.

Given my experience with the biometrics, I assumed the collection process would be a breeze.

However, I was greeted with a queue of 10 people waiting outside the bank when I pitched up at 09:29, not a good start. Around 10 minutes later, another five had joined the line behind me.

We were let into the branch at 09:53, about 25 minutes after I arrived, but much longer for some of those in front of me.

A Home Affairs employee collected the ID books of those who had come for collection and said we would be called by name when our turn came.

I was called to a counter at around 10:25, verified my identity with a fingerprint scan and signature, and received my new passport in less than a minute.

With the DHA branch opening at 08:30, that means they completed around 11 collections per hour on that day.

Much better than a non-bank DHA office

Overall, the experience was a bit of a mixed bag.

However, my passport was ready in less than six business days, and the time spent at the branch was about an hour and 10 minutes.

This is a welcome improvement over the nightmarish expeditions that have historically awaited those who need to go to regular DHA offices.

Some other noteworthy things from the experience:

  • It was a great help and assurance that I constantly received notifications via email and SMS providing updates on the status of my application.
  • Every login on the eHomeAffairs website required me to enter an OTP received via SMS. While not the best form of 2FA, it is at least an additional layer many other government services do not have.
  • Many people have previously reported issues accessing the eHomeAffairs website at certain times, with OTPs being particularly problematic. I was unable to get an OTP to check on the status of my application on two occasions.
  • I was privileged to have two branches to choose from within a 15km radius of my office and home. Many people would have to go to another province to find a DHA branch in their bank.
  • A second MyBroadband employee also reported a positive experience with the biometrics and photo-capturing appointment.

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Goodbye Home Affairs hell — Bank branch passport renewal tested