New Home Affairs – I hope you are here to stay

Home Affairs’ online booking platform is easy to use and the process of getting a smart ID card is pleasant.

This was the finding when I applied for and received my ID card through the Home Affairs office in Standard Bank Centurion branch.

After the success with my smart ID card, I applied for a new passport through the eHomeAffairs portal – and what followed only highlighted the huge gap between the “old” and “new” Home Affairs.

No record of collection

Upon applying for my new passport online, the portal displayed a message which stated that an application on the “old system” was present, and I could not proceed.

After trying several times to book an appointment to have my photos and fingerprints taken, and the same rejection message being produced, I called Home Affairs’ head office contact centre.

Fortunately, the wait for a call centre agent was only a few minutes, and after providing my details I was told that their systems showed I had not collected the passport I applied for in 2009.

This caused the online booking platform to produce the “old system” message, and Home Affairs would need to mark the 2009 passport as “collected”.

This should be easy, I presumed, as I had collected the passport and the system’s records only needed to be updated.

Go to Durban

After the Home Affairs agent had given me the feedback, I asked her if she could update the system for me. She could not.

I would have to contact the Home Affairs office which handled my 2009 passport application: Prospecton Office in Durban.

I was given four phone numbers to try, and what would turn into several weeks of non-answered calls and emails began.

No one at Prospecton answered on the first round of calls, nor the second, nor the third. After several days had passed with no calls being answered, I mailed Home Affairs head office and asked for assistance.

Several days, and emails, passed and an agent mailed me back: they could not get hold of the Prospecton office either, and they advised me to go to Durban and visit the branch to resolve the matter.

As I live in Johannesburg, this was not the option I was hoping for – and I replied as such.

Cue many more phone calls to almost every staff member in the region in an attempt to get hold of someone at the Prospecton office, and still no luck.

Matters were looking bleak, and a trip to Durban was on the cards. Then, a miracle. After over two weeks’ worth of calling, a staff member at Prospecton answered.

I told my tale, she spent about one minute on her PC updating the system, and that was it – my passport was marked as collected.

Applying online

The experience with the new online application process once the system was updated was the polar opposite: fast and painless.

I applied for a new passport online, made my booking at the Standard Bank Centurion office for 09:00 on 19 February, and paid online.

Upon arriving at the bank’s Home Affairs office, those in line were told by an official that the system was offline. Cue flashbacks of “old” Home Affairs and the pain which was sure to follow.

However, at around 09:30 the systems were back online and the staff worked quickly to process everyone.

Photos were taken, fingerprints scanned, and digital pads signed – and the backlog of people quickly disappeared.

I was out before 10:00 and received an SMS and email stating my application was processed.

On 25 February, six days later, I received another SMS and email: my passport was ready for collection.

I walked into the bank on the morning on 26 February, provided my ID number to the Home Affairs staff member, was told to go to the collection area to pick up my passport.

After signing for it and scanning my thumb prints, I was on my way.

Experiencing the two Home Affairs systems side-by-side paints a bold picture, the “new” Home Affairs must be celebrated as a true success story from a consumer’s point of view.

Let’s hope it is here to stay.

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New Home Affairs – I hope you are here to stay