Renewing travel documents

After a year in lockdown, there might be some of your important travel documents that have expired. MANDY LATIMORE investigates the renewal process

With the current lockdown and travel restrictions we may be remiss in checking the expiry date of various travel documents from passports to vehicle licences.

It is much cheaper to apply for a renewal of your driver’s licence, vehicle licence and passport while they are still valid than to let them expire.

In some instances, you might need to retake your driver’s test or put the vehicle through a roadworthy test in order to renew the licences – a very expensive venture.

Driver’s licences

During the 2020 lockdown, the government recognised the large backlog that would occur with regards to renewals and applications for licences. The following was decided:

“All licences and professional driving permits that were due to expire between 26 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 have had their validity periods extended to 31 August 2021” as per Gazette 43958, 3 December 2020.

To renew your driver’s licence you should apply at least four weeks before the expiry date. If you apply after the date, you will need to also apply for a temporary licence at an extra cost. With the temporary licence, you can still drive while you wait for your licence to be processed, which can take up to six weeks.

You won’t have to redo the driving test, but you do need to have your eyes tested at an optometrist and submit the report with your documentation at the licence testing centre. You can have your eyes tested at the centre, but this takes much longer. With COVID, it is also advisable to have it done at an optometrist where there is less contact with other people. There are many optometrists who are designated for licence tests that offer the service free of charge.

The renewal form is available online on the government website at Download the DL1 Application for renewal of driver’s licence card form.

Once you’ve completed the form, you need to take it, your eye test report, your original and a copy of your ID (or a valid South African passport), the old driver’s licence, four black and white photos, proof of residence (for example, a utility bill or levy statement), and the prescribed fee in cash.

If you live in an informal settlement, you can take along a letter with an official date stamp from your ward councillor confirming your residential address.

Vehicle licences

These licences are renewable every 12 months. You need to renew it before the expiry date or you will be liable for penalties and arrears. You do get a 21-day grace period after the expiry date stated on your licence disk.

To renew this licence you need the following documentation: An ID document or valid South African passport; proof of address (a utility bill in your name or a letter from your ward councillor for an informal settlement); and a completed MVL2 renewal notice form or the completed AVL form.

It is also advisable to take along the green form that you received the previous year as it contains all the relevant technical information about your vehicle. You might need to complete the form at the post office or licencing department. Remember to also bring the necessary fees. The post office counters only accept cash.


Currently passport holders can’t renew their passports. They need to apply for a new one once the current passport reaches its expiry date. If you are planning to travel, it is best to apply for a new passport before the current passport expires so that you have the new one processed and available before you travel.

You are able to apply for a temporary travel document in an emergency, but many countries do not accept these documents as valid travel documentation. You’ll therefore have to confirm whether the country accepts temporary documents before travelling.

Tourist passports are issued to persons over the age of 16 years, which is valid for 10 years. Passports for children under the age of 16 are only valid for five years. When applying for your first passport, you need a South African ID number.

When travelling, your passport needs to be valid for at least another 30 days after your return date. In other words, on the day that you return to South Africa, your passport should still be valid for 30 days. To travel, there needs to be at least two blank pages for entry and exit stamps. If you need a visa, there needs to be two blank pages facing each other: one for the visa and one for the entry stamp.

To apply for a passport, the following documents need to be completed and submitted:

  • A completed passport application form: DHA-73;
  • An original ID document or birth certificate, if under the age of 16, with copies of the documents;
  • The existing passport, if it is expiring, or a loss report if it has been stolen (DHA-335) with a confirmation letter indicating that the loss was reported to the police;
  • Two colour photos that comply with the ID and passport specifications; and
  • The prescribed fee.

If the person is under the age of 18 years, they also need a parental consent letter for issuing the passport.

Passport return times can vary between two weeks to two months, depending on whether you submit at a smart card office and the current backlog. There are now mini home affairs offices within the various big banks that assists persons with disabilities as the standard home affairs offices are often not accessible.

Of course, there are always private companies who will submit and collect on your behalf, but this process can be expensive and take much longer.

So, if you are planning a much needed break from your home, go dig out all your documents and check their dates before booking. Be sure to renew before they expire to save you time and money. Happy travels!

Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email:




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