Through the process of emigrating, I’ve found there’s a huge amount of paperwork that people need. Some of these documents take 8 months to get from Home Affairs.

If you have a sudden compelling opportunity, the wait for paperwork will likely kill all hope. If you want the documents quickly, the only way is to hire a specialist who pushes things through the system (delaying everyone else, no doubt). This can cost thousands of Rand.

So, make sure that you have the following, as soon as possible. Go in to Home Affairs (early morning is best), and save yourself months of waiting:

A valid passport.

SA Passports are generally valid for 10 years - you should always have lots of validity time available. Some countries don’t let you visit unless your passport is valid for at least 6 months. So renew well in advance of the expiry date. Many countries don’t accept temporary passports either. Get a Maxi passport if you’re likely to travel a lot in the next 10 years.

Applying for a new passport invalidates your old passport! Make sure you aren’t going to travel while you wait for your new passport to arrive.

Your old passports.

Don’t destroy these, and don’t hand them in at home affairs when getting a new passport. In the UK immigration process, they want to know all visits to the UK, and they want your old passports included in the application if possible.

Your Birth certificates.

There are three types of birth certificates. Various immigration agencies require different ones. I strongly suggest you get all three and store them in a safe place. The UK requires a “vault copy”. Canada requires an “Unabridged certificate”. If you get all three ahead of time, you’re all set. If you apply for all of these well in advance, you’ll pay less for all three than if you get one through a consultant in a hurry.

  1. Abridged birth certificates are the “standard” birth certificates that SA uses. They include only your details. And they are printed on yellow paper by a computer
  2. Unabridged birth certificates include your parent’s details - their ID numbers, full names. They are also printed on yellow paper by a computer.
  3. Vault copy birth certificates are certified copies of the original paperwork submitted to register your birth. It’s hand written, and has a certification stamp. KEEP THIS SAFE as some sites indicate that you can only request it once in your lifetime. I’ve no idea if this true.
  4. Your parent’s and grandparent’s birth certificates are very useful if you’re going to need to prove ancestry. For the UK, FreeBMD will probably be useful, as they store free copies of the births, deaths, and marriages registry information for the UK.
  5. Marriage Certificates for you, your parents, and your grandparents may also be important.
  6. Bank Statements are very important. Especially if they include your full street address, and preferably a massively positive balance. See the visa rules for the requirements relating to bank balances - it varies a lot across countries.
  7. A Drivers Licence that isn’t about to expire is a good idea. If you are overseas when it expires, this can save you hassles.