My South African passport expired and I need to travel to SA soon. What must I do?

This is a common question… Your South African passport expired and you have to travel to South Africa within the next 6 months. As a South African living abroad, you know the passport renewal process is slow. What do you do?

If you only have South African citizenship, or you are a dual US/SA citizen, you will have to renew your passport. (Obviously, if you are now a US citizen only, you only travel with your US passport and your old SA passport doesn’t matter.)

In the past, the process was to apply for a temporary passport, as well as a regular passport. However, as of Sep 1, 2014, temporary passports have been phased out.

If you have an emergency situation, like a death or sickness in the family, you can apply for an Emergency Travel Certificate (ETC), which is issued for a period of 1-12 months. These can be issued in one week. You will be required to apply for a regular passport at the same time.

As a Texas resident, contact the SA Embassy in Washington DC at (202) 232-4400 to get the process started.

Keep in mind that, as a South African here in Austin recently experienced, the Emergency Travel Certificate is issued for one-way only. It is collected upon arrival in South Africa. You will need a second ETC for your return trip to the US.

With the phasing out of the temporary passports, it has become very important for South Africans living abroad to ensure that their passports are renewed well in advance of their expiry dates. If your passport has less than 9 months until expiry, start the renewal process immediately.

You can get more information about Emergency Travel Certificates here.


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