After going through my personal documents the other day, I came across my ID book.
The ID photo was so old I almost did not recognise myself – so it was a good excuse to get myself a new Smart ID card.
The Department of Home Affairs opened Smart ID applications to all South Africans in August 2016, letting citizens register via the department’s online portal.
Once users had registered for the ID card online, they must then visit a Home Affairs office with a live capture system or one of a few participating banks which have a Home Affairs section inside.
Step one in getting your Smart ID is registering on the eHomeAffairs portal.
The online portal allows users to submit applications and supporting documents online, make online payments, and schedule appointments at a Home Affairs-enabled bank branch.
To create an account, users must register with their full name, ID number, cellphone number, email address, state which bank they are with, and enter their bank account number.
This does make you feel uneasy, but the portal states it is so payment can be made for a Smart ID application.
It must be noted that users must also have Flash enabled in their browser, and to login to their online profile they will have to enter a one-time PIN sent to them from Home Affairs on their cellphone.
Once you have verified your details and logged in, you are then required to fill out a few forms to capture your home and postal address, nationality, and citizenship status.
To make an appointment for your Smart ID application at a bank branch, you must be a customer of that bank.
For me, this was Standard Bank – with the closest branch Centurion. The purpose of the appointment was to have my fingerprints and photo taken, as the actual application for the Smart ID card is processed online.
Once you have selected your bank and the branch you want to visit, you select a timeslot.
I selected 11 January, Friday, for 11:00 – 12:00.
To confirm your booking, you are required to pay the application fee online – which was R140.
Standard Bank customers can pay using the MyBills feature, with Home Affairs essentially sending you a bill you must authorise to be paid.
Users select the MyBills section in their online banking profile and navigate to the Home Affairs line and activate it as a billing beneficiary.
After it is activated you can access the auto-populated Home Affairs bill which is generated after you have gone through the payment section on the Home Affairs website. You then enter the reference number provided on the Home Affairs website into your bill, and click pay.
Home Affairs states that you have to pay online and cannot pay at the bank branch you visit.
Once you have made your appointment and paid, you receive an SMS confirming your booking.
Comfy seats, long wait
I arrived at Standard Bank Centurion and immediately saw a Home Affairs sign at the entrance.
After asking an employee at reception where the Home Affairs section was, I went upstairs to the Private and Business banking suites – where the Home Affairs desk was located.
The area had adequate, comfortable seating, it was air conditioned, and was what you would expect from a bank – neat and tidy.
When you enter and approach the Home Affairs desk, you provide the staff member with your ID number and details – and she notes that you have arrived.
You are then issued a ticket with a number on it. I arrived at 11:15, and after receiving my ticket – number 56 – sat down among a few other people who were also there for the Home Affairs service.
While the Home Affairs section is in the bank, bank clients and citizens do not queue together or share any other resources besides the chairs – meaning the Home Affairs operations do not affect banking services, and vice versa.
A few minutes after sitting down, ticket number 52 was called for their photos and fingerprints – which meant my turn should be up soon.
It was not.
While the chairs were comfortable, the air conditioner kept the room cool, and the Home Affairs staff were friendly, time started to drag.
Almost 40 minutes later, 12:00 came and went, and I was still waiting.
So did 12:30, and a few people who were there for the same reason as me had joined the queue.
It must be noted that people who were there to collect their Smart ID card were processed much faster, and in the time I was waiting many citizens came in and out after receiving their IDs.
With 12:40 approaching, my number was finally called and I went into the photo and fingerprint room.
The office had two photo booths in it, and two Home Affairs staff who sat at PCs and had digital fingerprint scanners on their desks.
Once again, the staff member was friendly and asked me to place my thumbs one at a time on the reader.
I then signed twice on a digital signature pad, and was directed to a photo booth.
The booth has a DSLR camera inside of it which is positioned in a column that can slide up and down. The chair you sit on is also adjustable.
After I sat down and the employee adjusted the camera and the chair, he returned to his PC and took two photos.
And that was it.
The wait to get in was long, but the actual biometric capture took less than 5 minutes.
The employee told me I will receive an SMS stating that my application was being processed – which I did – and that I will receive another SMS when my Smart ID is ready for collection.
After retelling my story to friends, however, I was reminded that an hour-and-a-half in a comfortable, quiet office to get a new ID was a dream compared to many experiences they had at Home Affairs branches.