General information about South African Identity books / Identity Documents

An Identity document is important to get as soon as you are eligible (from 16 years of age) as it proves your identity. The green bar-coded Identity book (ID book) is also a legal form of identity when dealing with public and private institutions. There are many occasions when you will be requested to provide a copy of your ID book – for example for access to housing, education and healthcare services; to apply for a driver’s license or a job; when entering into business agreements and even when registering for the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

You will also need an identity book to apply for a passport, and visas to work, study or visit friends and family overseas. You will also need your identity book to register to vote in the general and municipal elections.

Identity documents are issued to South African citizens or permanent residence permit holders who are 16 years or older. People (including spouses and children) who are working for the South African government or one of its statutory bodies outside of South Africa also qualify to receive South African ID books. 

You can apply for your ID book at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or any South African mission or consulate overseas. All applications are sent to the Department’s head office in Pretoria. There, your fingerprints will be matched with those already on record or entered into the National Population Register. Your application will then be processed and once issued, your ID book will be forwarded to the office where you made your application for you to collect. 

You must provide your cellphone number in your application so that you can receive regular updates on the progress of your application by SMS. To get the SMS updates, simply SMS the word “ID” followed by your ID number to 32551. You will be charged R1 for each SMS sent.


Applying for an Identity book / Identity document for the first time

First time applicants must submit the following documentation to their nearest Department of Home Affairs office or South African mission or consulate abroad:

  • Form BI-9, completed in black ink
  • A certified copy of your Birth certificate or reference book  or a copy of the old Transkei, Bophutatswana, Venda or Ciskei homelands identity or travel documents 
  • Two identical, colour photographs (NOT needed at smartcard offices as ID images are captured digitally however colour photographs are still needed for temporary IDs)

Your fingerprints will be taken by a Home Affairs official and imprinted on Form DHA-9. 

If you are a naturalised citizen or a permanent residence permit holder you must attach the following to your application form:

  • your naturalisation certificate and a copy, which will be certified by Home Affairs
  • your permanent residency certificate and a copy, which will be certified by Home Affairs
  • your exemption certificate and a copy, which will be certified by Home Affairs
  • Form BI-1620, which must be  completed at a Home Affairs office

If the permanent residence permit or exemption certificate cannot be furnished, Form BI-829 must be completed for the issuing of a duplicate thereof. If the naturalization certificate cannot be furnished, you must apply for a duplicate prior to submitting the ID book application.


Correcting errors in the ID Document

If you get your ID book and there are errors in the personal information contained within, the Department of Home Affairs will replace your ID book free of charge.

To apply to correct information in your ID book, simply submit the following to any office of the Department of Home Affairs:

  • Forms BI-9 and BI-309 completed with the correct information
  • Proof  of the error, that shows the correct information e.g.  birth certificate
  • Two identical colour photographs (NOT needed at smartcard offices as ID images are captured digitally)


Re-issuing an ID book

You can apply to have your ID book re-issued:

  • If you are married and want to assume the surname of your spouse. You must submit a copy of your marriage certificate, a completed application Form BI-9 and a pay the required fee.
  • If you are a woman and want to apply for a new ID in the name of any of your previous surnames, then documentary proof showing you are entitled to use that surname must be provided (i.e. a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, etc) along with a completed Form BI-9. You will also be required to pay a fee for the re-issue.
  • If your ID book has been lost, stolen or damaged


You can apply for a replacement by:

  • Completing Form BI-9 as well if you have not previously submitted your fingerprints
  • Attaching additional documents as required (e.g. a marriage certificate if you are married)
  • Paying the required fee for the re-issue

In the event you lose, damage or have your ID book stolen, you may request a Temporary Identification Certificate (TIC). This can be done at any office of the Department of Home Affairs and is subject to the verification of your fingerprints.