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South Africa's High Commission in the UK Photo: iStock

For those desperate South Africans in the UK who have been unable to get hold of the High Commission in London during the past few months, we got in touch on their behalf and the SAHC has kindly responded to some of the many questions.

SAHC in the UK is still closed with staff working remotely

“The High Commission is affected by lockdown restrictions and is currently closed,” Elizabeth N Aphane, Counsellor: Immigration & Civic Services, explains.

She says: “The High Commission staff is working remotely and are responding to emails sent on their individual work emails. South Africans who need to travel urgently must send a request for an appointment to the email addresses provided on the website.”

Contact Details for Emergency Travel Certificates (ETC) to South Africa (as per the website):

  • Email: aphanee@dirco.gov.za and SethosaR@dirco.gov.za
  • Your email must have a heading: Emergency Travel to South Africa
  • Please attach proof of your emergency  (eg. copy of death certificate or stamped Notice of death form or burial order or letter from hospital)
  • The Emergency Travel Certificate is usually issued for a one-way trip to South Africa. Once in SA, South Africans are encouraged to apply for their new passport there.

According to Ms Aphane many have been assisted during lockdowns with Emergency Travel Certificates for emergency travels to South Africa.


Non-emergency applicants

Applicants are advised to prepare their documentation as per guidelines provided on the website and they will be provided with a date when they can start posting fully completed applications and supporting documents to the High Commission.

The date will be placed on the website. At the time of publishing this article (6 March 2021), the date has not yet been announced so please hold onto your completed forms.

“Forms are downloadable from the website, forms with unique bar codes will be provided on the day of the appointment,” says Ms Aphane. “Forms with unique bar codes should only be requested by post for postal applications.”

Please Note: Fingerprints are taken at the High Commission free of charge, by appointment.

No passport expiry extensions yet… but faster turn-around times!

When we asked if Home Affairs is considering extending passport expiry dates since so many South Africans are facing this crisis, the UK SAHC said: “National Department of Home Affairs has so far not indicated that the Passport Act and its Regulation will be amended to make provisions for extension of expired passports. There is currently an improvement in the turn-around times of passport applications.” Should this be true, that would be wonderful news for South Africans abroad who have been outraged by waiting times of six to 12 months for their new passports (compared to the two week turn-around within SA itself). Incidentally, the Department of Home Affairs in SA resumed its normal passport services on Thursday (4 March).

UK SAHC walk-ins are not permitted

“Unfortunately, we will continue to see applicants by appointments (only) to ensure that applicants and staff are not at risk of being infected by Covid 19,” says Ms Aphane. She says that even after lockdown restrictions are lifted, there will still be no walk ins.

Please use postal option where possible

The UK SAHC says it encourages applicants to use the postal option for applications that do not require fingerprints – such as Birth registration and child passports – as long as the part of Commissioner of Oaths is completed. This will enable the office to schedule more appointments for adult passport applications.

If you had already submitted your passport application months ago and want to track where it is…

You can request the status of your passport application from Home Affairs call centre at hacc@dha.gov.za. Please ensure you provide your ID number with the enquiry.

South African High Commission Website Details

SAHC Website: https://southafricahouse.uk/

SAHC Home Affairs Civic Services: https://southafricahouse.uk/home-affairs/civic-services/ (includes links to download applications for passports, birth registrations, emergency travel, citizensip)