We’ve had to apply for birth certificates and other documents from the Department of Home Affairs for a little travel we have coming up so I’ve spent many hours at Home Affairs offices lately. I started off at the Edenvale Home Affairs office because I thought that it would be more efficient than other offices we’ve used in the past but that turned out to be wishful thinking. A big reason for the hours you spend at this and similarly run Home Affairs offices is this.
Home Affairs runs on paper almost exclusively. There are forms to complete and submit in person and long delays before you receive what you request. I had to apply for unabridged birth certificates for our kids (the ones we received after they were born were abridged) and it takes 6 to 8 weeks (hypothetically) for the certificates to be delivered to the Home Affairs office you applied from.
It boggles my mind that I have to apply in person at a Home Affairs office for these sorts of documents and that it takes so long for what is basically a printout on fancy stationary. Why couldn’t each Home Affairs office have a printer installed with the requisite paper to print these certificates in a secure environment? The answer is probably because decentralising this would only lead to dramatically more fraud than is currently possible through the centralised model.
What would make more sense is to enable citizens to log into a secure site using a username, password and secured by an identity number and something like a one-time PIN to order these sorts of documents. Collections can still take place in person using an ID book or card to authenticate the requester but this would probably make huge inroads into cutting back on the ridiculous queues just to order those printouts.
In the meantime, we discovered that not all Home Affairs offices are created equal. We received advice to head to the Centurion Home Affairs office to order documents because it apparently takes far less time to receive the documents you order from there. That sounds a bit extreme but it turns out this Home Affairs office is across the road from the Centurion Gautrain Station so the commute is actually pretty quick.
Another tip I received is to call the Home Affairs call centre and ask them to expedite applications where you need the documents fairly urgently. I’m going to do that tomorrow and that will hopefully speed the process up.
Update (2014-10-13): I just called the Home Affairs call centre in an effort to speed up the process and I was told that it isn’t that simple. Here is how you expedite document requests:
- Ideally, prepare a motivational letter (1 for each document applied for and written by the particular applicant) stating why you need the documents urgently and asking for the document requests to be expedited (make it convincing).
- You can submit motivational letters if you have already already submitted the applications but this probably isn’t ideal. If you do this, you should probably include copies of your receipts so they can link the requests back to the motivational letters.
- Hand deliver the motivational letters to the Home Affairs office you submitted your applications to. No faxes or emails.
- When you hand in your letters, take an extra copy of the letter with the attachments and have the person at the counter stamp the copy of the letter so you have some proof that they received it.
- Wait a week and then call the call centre on 0800 60 11 90 to check on the progress of your motivation (in other words, whether they feel it is sufficiently compelling and what the outcome is).
- Keep your reference numbers for your calls (they didn’t advise me to do this but do it anyway).