As with most interactions with the South African Government, renewing your driver’s licence can be a bit of nightmare if you are going in blind, so we have had the bad experiences for you and have tried to create a concise guide to doing it.
While we may be exaggerating in calling this process a nightmare, many people rely on their licence to keep their jobs, and delays in the process can be scary to think about.
When we went through this process recently it took almost six months to get our new licence. Granted this occurred during the massive licence backlog problem, but it is illustrative of a worst-case scenario you may also experience.
This guide is accurate at the time of writing.
Step 1: Book an appointment online
While it was expected to go and line up for hours at a licence department, there is now an option to book online instead and simply show up at the appropriate time.
Go to the governmental website online.natis.gov.za, click on “BOOK NOW FOR DL CARD RENEWAL” and enter your personal information. After this you will be presented with a list of local licencing departments which have open appointments available. Choose one of these departments and a time slot, and you will be able to book.
This is a best case scenario, however, as the site is unreliable at best. Many times the website will not have any appointments open but reloading the page or checking back in a few hours will show completely different results.
On top of that, you may make a booking that is not recognised. We recently used this site to create an appoint at a certain time, only to show up to find the licencing department closed.
Please note that this may not be available in your province. It works in Gauteng at the time of writing, however.
Step 2: Gather the appropriate documents & money
After creating an appointment online you will be instructed to bring the following documents with you:
- ID book
- A photocopy of the ID book
- Two ID photos
In addition to this, the application fee must be paid in cash. Right now this is R228 but the exact amount will be stated in the appointment confirmation.
As for the ID photos it is never stated if they need to be in colour or black and white. We suggest taking two of each to be as prepared as possible.
Step 3: Get an eyesight test (optional)
During the renewal process at the department, you will issue an eye test to ensure that you are still fit to drive. Alternatively, you can get this test done beforehand by an optometrist who will then issue a certificate you can give to the department instead.
We recommend doing this as failing your eye test during the appointment will cause the renewal process to end at which time you will need to start all over again. As South African diver’s licences are valid for five years, it’s very likely that most people’s eyesight has deteriorated or at least weakened over that time.
How much this will cost depends on where you go. Some people we’ve spoken to tell us that their local optometrist does the test for free, while others charge R50 or R99.
The certificate you will be awarded on successful completion is purple and white, and we’ve provided an example down below so you can make sure you have the correct form. Please note that we’ve had to alter the example to prevent duplication.
Step 4: Appear for your appointment
The confirmation received after making an online booking recommends that you appear for your booking an hour before the allotted time.
Once there locate the appropriate building for licence renewals and wait for your turn. You will need to confirm your booking – usually by way of presenting your name or ID number – at which point you will wait in line with other people doing also renewing their licences.
Once you sit down with a department employee they will check over all your documents and begin the process. The eye test will be administered here if you have not done one beforehand as outlined in Step 3.
If everything is successful you will be given a form confirming that you have complete the process. This form is incredibly important as it both acts as a pseudo extension to the legality of your driver’s licence, and it will need to be presented when collecting your new licence.
This form extends the validity of your licence for three months past what is printed on that licence. You will need to carry this form with you when you drive and present it with your licence if you need to prove to that you are driving legally.
We highly recommend making certified copies of this form in case you lose it or it goes missing.
Step 5: Check on the status of your renewal (optional)
You will likely hear very little from the South African government about your licence after you have completed the previous steps.
We’ve been told that an SMS will be sent to your provided mobile number when the licence is ready to be collected, but these sometimes do not go out.
Thankfully there is a way to manually check it yourself. SMS your ID number to 33214, wait a few minutes, and you will receive a message back telling you about the status of your new licence. Please note that this service is not free and you will be charged for each SMS.
Step 6: Collect your new licence
When you’re sure that your licence is ready to be collected, simply take the form mentioned at the end of Step 4 and proceed to the licencing department where you originally had the appointment.
You will need to wait in line for collection but there is, thankfully, a way for another person to collect it for you.
The aforementioned form has an affidavit printed on the back which you can fill out. This grants another person the ability to collect your new licence on your behalf. This is particularly useful if problems in Step 1 forced you to make an appointment at a department that is far from your home or work.
Feel free to tell us your experience at the Licencing Department in the comments section.