You might have seen them emerging from people’s handbags. You might have seen the posters around departmental buildings. You might even have gotten a little bit jealous because you don’t have one. Yes, that’s right: finally, South Africans can now obtain the very fancy, the very portable Smart ID Card. After a long period of waiting (and even longer, if you have already visited your nearest Department of Home Affairs) citizens can say goodbye to their old green ID book.

Even though it might be a bit sad, possibly a bit nostalgic to get rid of the green book that is not to say that it is invalid. The South African government confirmed that citizens can still use the green book as proof of identification. It will remain live and legal until the Live Capture System has been rolled out in all relevant departments across the country so that people can visit their nearest Department of Home Affairs in order to get their Smart ID Card.

There have been many rumours surrounding the Smart ID Card regarding the process, how to apply and how it works. Here is a very simple breakdown.

Why the change?

First of all the South African government identified huge numbers of identity fraud and stated that the green ID book is easy to recreate without showing specific signs of copying or fraudulent remaking. The Smart ID Card will be put into place in order to prevent fraud and to make it easier for South African citizens to present proof of identity wherever they need to. Apart from preventing ID copying, it also prevents fraud in terms of driver’s licenses, social grants, financial institutions as well as insurance.

What does the new Smart ID Card look like?

The Smart ID Card is a normal-sized plastic card like your credit or debit card and it contains all of the information that you will find on the first page of your green ID book. On the front, your personal information will be laser-engraved, including your photo. It makes it impossible for fraudsters to swop pictures out like it was done with the green ID book. Your name and surname will appear along with your sex, nationality, ID number, and date of birth. Your signature will also appear below your photo.

Who can apply for a Smart ID Card?

Anyone who is older than 16 years can apply for a Smart ID Card and it is especially important that anyone writing matric applies for an ID card as soon as possible. This is needed when writing final exams. As for permanent residency holders (foreign citizens who have been living in South Africa on a temporary permit for more than five years and have received permanent residence) do not qualify for this card but the opportunity will arise to apply at a later stage. This also applies to neutralized citizens (those who have received South African citizenship but were not born here).

What do you need to apply for a Smart ID Card?

There are three different categories when it comes to the application process and this will determine what you need to take with you when you apply. Category A is for people who are 16 and above and who are obtaining an identity document for the very first time. They will need their birth certificate, a certified copy of a parent/legal guardian’s ID document, a death certificate if parents are deceased, and proof of residence. The first issuing of the ID card is free. If you are in possession of the green ID book, you are to pay a fee of R140 in order to get the Smart ID Card.

Category B is for pensioners who are 60 years old and above who are applying for a Smart ID Card for the first time. They need to bring their green ID book or an affidavit if it is lost, proof of residence, a marriage certificate (if married), and a divorce certificate (if divorced). The issuing of the Smart ID Card to pensioners for the first time is also free of charge.

Category C is for any other citizen who is applying for a Smart ID Card for the first time. They need to take their green ID book or an affidavit if it is lost, proof of residence, a marriage certificate (if married) or a divorce certificate (if divorced). A fee of R140 will be required in order to be issued the Smart ID Card.

Applicants don’t need to take ID photos along. Photos are taken of you at the Department of Home Affairs. The Department will then take the green book and it will be phased out.

See? It’s so simple, you could do it with your eyes closed.

Where can you apply for your Smart ID Card?

The first place where you can apply for your Smart ID Card is at your nearest Department of Home Affairs branch. It would be a good idea to check online whether they produce Smart ID Cards so that you don’t waste time going to the wrong one. At your nearest branch, you will be directed as indicated by the officials until the process is complete. You will then wait 14 working days before your ID card is ready. You need to fetch your ID card yourself at the branch that you apply for it.

The second place you can apply is at a bank. In order to do this, you need to be an account holder at that bank. Smaller banks usually do not offer this service, but bigger and more commercial banks do. ABSA, FNB, Standard Bank, and Nedbank are all banks that offer this service. The Department of Home Affairs is currently participating in discussions with these banks in order to expand the number of branches that offer this service in order to speed up the process of converting the green books to Smart ID cards.

Lastly, you have the option to apply online. Please note that if you choose to apply online, you are still required to go to your closest Department of Home Affairs branch in order to complete the process. You can apply online at the department’s e-HomeAffairs portal where you will be able to upload the necessary documentation and make payment. Firstly you will need to create an account and a password in order to log in and save your details. After you have registered, you can then apply. You will select the option that allows you to create a new application form and to complete it as instructed. After that, you can upload the supporting documents and make payment. You can choose to make an appointment with a Department of Home Affairs official if you have applied through a bank, but if you are going to be visiting it within 60 days’ time of the online application being submitted, it is not necessary.

The Department of Home Affairs has gone completely digital which should ensure that the process runs a lot smoother and faster. One can hope that the issuing of the Smart ID Cards will prevent citizens from camping out in front of the branches from five in the morning.


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