Back to basics: Passports

I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts on travel admin called the Back to Basics series. These blog posts are for people who haven’t yet traveled out of the country and need a rundown on how to make it happen. When you don’t know what it takes it may seem way more complicated than it is. It’s quite simple. It all starts with a passport so that’s what will begin this series.

Seasoned travelers may learn a thing or two from this series as well. It’s never a bad thing to expand your knowledge and understanding.

In this blog post I cover the passport application process, what to do if you lose your passport while out of the country and other useful information that is important to know about passports when you travel. As we know, passports are the travel document that serves as proof of identification and citizenship that allows you access into a country other than your country of birth/citizenship.

Apply for a Passport Online

If you are a South African citizen you can apply for a passport online via eHome Affairs. This is a huge relief because queuing at a Home Affairs branch can be painful. I had an awful experience attempting to queue at Home Affairs in December. I stood for hours and the queue DID NOT MOVE. I realised that I am not as patient as I thought I was.

This is what is required for a tourist passport application:

  • Application form
  • Application fee
  • ID
  • Two colour photos

This is the process:

Unfortunately the entire application can not be completed online. A passport officer has to verify your identification in person and fingerprints must be taken. The only e-Home Affairs bank branches currently available are in Joburg, Pretoria and Cape Town and at specific FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and ABSA branches. I revived an old bank account I had at Standard Bank specifically to renew my passport using this method. The Home Affairs office trauma was enough to convince me that this would be worth it. And it was. I made a booking for the Friday that week, spent less than 30min at Standard bank (fingerprints and photos were done at the bank) and received an sms a few days later notifying me that my passport is ready for collection.

Take Note of the Following on Your Passport

  • The expiration date

A passport is valid for 10 years from the date of issue. Noting the expiration date is important because your passport must bet valid for the next 30 days after departure. No one is going to send a reminder that your passport is nearing expiration. You will just get the shock of your life as you plan for a trip to Greece and notice your passport is actually expiring next week – I may or may not be speaking from experience. When your passport expires, it can not be renewed, you need to follow the application process to get a new one.

  • The number of empty pages

Every time you enter or exit a country your passport is stamped. “Collecting” stamps in your passport is a cool way to track your travels. There are even blog posts written about countries with the “coolest” passport stamps. On a more serious note, remember that your passport needs to have at least two empty pages when you travel.

What to Do if you Lose your Passport

There are two scenarios. You either lose your passport in your home country or you lose it while in another country.

If you lose it while in your home country:

Report it at the police station in order to get an affidavit that you will use as confirmation that you reported the loss. There is also an additional form that you will need to complete while applying for a new passport. These are the requirements for South African passports.

If you lose your passport while outside of your home country:

Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck there forever! Report your lost passport at the local police station. Locate the nearest South African Embassy and apply for a temporary passport. You will need the police report, ID, two passport photos and will need to pay an application fee.

Passport Strength

There is a list of 95 countries which can be visited using a South African passport without requiring a VISA in your passport (Some countries on this list may require you to obtain a VISA upon arrival).

You can track the global passport power rank to see how every country compares in terms of passport strength.  Singapore, Germany and South Korea have the stongest in the world!

Next blog post in this series is Back to Basics: VISAs. Subscribe to my blog or follow me on social media to make sure you don’t miss it!