South Africa Set to Phase Out Green ID Books

The Department of Home Affairs plans to declare South Africa’s green ID books invalid, urging citizens to transition to smart ID cards. This move comes over a decade after the introduction of smart ID cards, aiming to modernize and secure the country’s identification system.

In a significant development, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has announced plans to phase out the traditional green ID books, over a decade after the introduction of the smart ID card. This transition aims to modernize the identification system in South Africa and enhance security and efficiency.

In a recent interview with E-tv news, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi stated, “We want to do away with the green barcode ID. We think it’s long enough that we’ve kept dual identity documents.” Motsoaledi emphasized the urgency for South African citizens to upgrade to the smart ID cards to avoid any inconvenience when the green ID books become invalid.

The smart ID cards, introduced in July 2013, were initially intended to replace the green ID booklets by 2022. However, the rollout faced significant delays due to the slow implementation of biometric capture systems essential for issuing the new cards. Furthermore, smart ID cards are currently available only to citizens born in South Africa, excluding naturalized citizens from this modernization effort.

One of the primary benefits of smart ID cards is the embedded microchip that securely stores biometric data, allowing for verification without needing a connection to a central database. This feature significantly enhances privacy and security. The cards also have various visual and physical characteristics to prevent forgery, including a durable polycarbonate body.

Despite the initial plans, the adoption rate for smart ID cards has been slow. When the DHA first introduced the smart IDs, there were approximately 38 million ID holders in South Africa. As of 2019, only 13 million smart ID cards had been issued, increasing to 21 million by December 2023. This indicates that about 55% of the original ID holders have transitioned to the new system. However, many of these cardholders are new 16-year-olds who never had a green ID booklet.

Minister Motsoaledi mentioned that his department is on track to issue 2.5 million smart ID cards in the 2023/24 financial year. At this pace, the complete transition from green ID books to smart ID cards may extend until the 2030/31 financial year.

Another factor contributing to the slow adoption is the delay in finalizing agreements with South African banks to facilitate smart ID enrollments and collections. Currently, this service is available at only 30 bank branches nationwide, offering a more convenient application process for citizens.

Since the service’s launch in 2016, over 665,000 South Africans have received their smart ID cards through bank branches. Citizens can also apply for smart ID cards and renew passports online via the eHomeAffairs platform, making the process more accessible and efficient.

As the DHA continues to roll out the Live Capture System to more branches, it reassures citizens that the green barcoded ID book remains a legal form of identification until further notice. However, with the phase-out announcement looming, it is crucial for South Africans to take proactive steps in transitioning to smart ID cards to ensure a smooth and secure identification process.

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