Smart IDs & Passports Made Easy: SA Banks Expand Home Affairs Services in 2023

South African Passport
  1. South Africa’s major banks and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) are collaborating to extend DHA services, such as Smart ID and passport applications, at bank branches across the country.
  2. The pilot project for offering these services at bank branches has been extended to September 2023, with 43 additional offices planned to open once the necessary agreements are signed.
  3. Delays in the project’s implementation have been attributed to concerns over reputational risks and extended downtime, prompting a R400 million network upgrade by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to address these issues.

South Africa’s major banks are collaborating with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to broaden the scope of DHA services at bank branches throughout the country. This move comes after years of negotiations between the DHA and the banks, resulting in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLAs were created as part of a pilot project aimed at enabling South African citizens to access Home Affairs services at satellite branches located within participating banks across the nation.

This initiative allows South Africans to apply for, process, and collect Smart IDs and passports through these satellite branches, bypassing long queues and strained service levels often encountered at traditional Home Affairs branches. The initial pilot project concluded in July 2022 but was extended to 31 March 2023 by the participating banks. In November 2022, the DHA expressed hope that the MoU and SLAs would be signed by the deadline. However, according to FNB, the participating banks and the Banking Association of South Africa have agreed to extend the pilot project further to September 2023.

More Bank Branches to Offer Home Affairs Services in 2023

DHA Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced plans to open 43 additional offices at bank branches across South Africa once the necessary agreements have been signed. Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence, stated that several branches have been identified for potential service expansion, subject to further consultation with the Department. “We will continue to work closely with the Department as part of our efforts to help our customers access this important service,” she said.

Nedbank also confirmed its intention to expand its operations following the signing of the agreements. The bank currently operates five DHA sites and plans to scale up its rollout plans once the PPP Service Level Agreement is approved by the DHA. Nedbank reported that the service is very popular, with uptake continuing to grow among clients. The bank anticipates that the finalized SLA agreement may include an expansion of services for clients, irrespective of the bank with which the DHA site is associated.

Standard Bank and Absa directed inquiries to the Department of Home Affairs, which acknowledged receipt of the queries but did not provide a response by the time of publication. Meanwhile, the latest bank branch to offer Home Affairs services is Standard Bank, Kathu Mall, which opened at the end of 2022.

The DHA is also expanding its branch network by opening stand-alone offices in malls across the country. A branch at Menlyn Mall opened in March 2023, and more mall-based branches are planned for the coming months.

Causes for Delay in Implementation

The DHA admitted that negotiations with participating banks have been slow, primarily due to concerns over the reputational risk associated with extended periods of downtime in Home Affairs services. In November, the Department revealed that banks had cited the State Information Technology Agency’s (SITA) turnaround times as a significant reputational risk and sought assurances that their sites would not experience extended offline periods.

To address these concerns, the DHA announced that SITA has initiated a R400 million upgrade of its core network, scheduled to take place over the next five years. The upgrade will focus on replacing outdated equipment and expanding network capacity to ensure that various DHA sites do not compete for limited bandwidth.

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