Sunday, 21 March 2010

Renewing a South African Passport in London

If you've settled in the UK then sooner or later the time will come that you need to renew your, or your family's South African passports.  Although the renewal process is not that difficult there are a few problem areas.

This post is intended to help point out what you need to do.

Applications can be made by post or in person at the South African High Commission, 15 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DD.

However renewing an adult passport requires a full set of finger prints which will be done for you if you apply in person.  Obviously then, if a postal application is made you will have to have the finger printing done elsewhere.  This can be a problem because in the UK, not all Police Stations can do this.  Only those with a finger printing bureau will.  They will also charge £63.00

The SA High Commission also require that the finger prints are completed on a specific form - BI-9.  The form cannot be downloaded from the internet.  One will be sent to you however, if you send a request for the form with a self addressed stamped envelope to the SA High Commission.  From what I read elsewhere, you will also then need to convince the British Police to do the finger prints on the South African form and not their own.  There have been a number of cases where the British Police say that their UK form is suitable.  Its not - it has to be on the SA from BI-9.

The choice to get your own finger prints done as opposed to making an application in person then depends really on how much of a hassle it is to get into London.

Obviously there other forms and supporting documents required.  These are as follows;

  1. Passport application form - BI-73
  2. Determination of citizenship form - BI-529
  3. 4 x passport photographs (6 x photographs if older than 15 and a half and do not have a 13 digit identity number).
  4. 2 x certified copies of the bio page of your passport or identity book.  (That's the page with the your photo on it.)
If you have had your passport lost or stolen you will need the original police report or the case number and a completed form CMO219.

If your passport has been damaged or destroyed then a sworn statement of how it was destroyed or damaged will be required.

If you're renewing a child's passport then the written consent of both parents is required.

The fees are as follows;
  • Adult passport - £14.00
  • Child's passport - £10.00
Payment must be made in British Pounds by cash, bank draft or postal order.  Bank drafts and postal orders must be made payable to SA HIGH COMMISSION.

Postal applications must sent by special delivery and must include a prepaid self addressed special delivery envelope.  This is for the return of issued documents or, if there is anything wrong with the application, for the return of the application and supporting documents.

A further word of warning - once the passport arrives you will need to send in your existing passport so that it can be cancelled before the renewal passport is issued.

Saturday, 19 April 2008


There's a country just south of Zimbabwe, the inflation capital of the world - its called South Africa. I was born, bred and educated there, in and around the coastal city of Durban. This had a fairly relaxed lifestyle, unlike one of its inland counterparts, Johannesburg. There the pace is faster, the distances travelled further and originally the crime was worse. But it didn't matter where you lived - everyone paid the same income tax.

I paid income tax from the day I started to work. With my after tax income, I bought things on which I paid VAT (value added tax). I also filled my car up with petrol on a regular basis and the lion's share of this expenditure was made up of taxes. When I bought my house I paid rates to the local municipality for services rendered - refuse, sewage etc. Cutting a long story short a lot of money went to the government's coffers.

I also paid for the services of a private security company to keep my family and possessions safe at home, I paid for private medical cover and I paid for my children to go to school. Security, medical and education - I'm sure some of my tax contributions should have covered some of these services that should have been provided by the state?

Then my new life started in the UK. My wife is a British citizen and they and their family's certainly seem to get a helping hand from the English/British government.

My oldest son has been at school since the second week after we arrived and there are no school fees. The entire family has had at least one visit to the doctor and not once have we had to pay a bill. My wife receives a Child Benefit payment to assist with the costs of our kids and this was back dated to a week after we arrived. She's also just received a £250 voucher to set up a Child Trust Fund. This is a government sponsored scheme to help provide savings for your children which becomes theirs once they turn 18. Also our neighbourhood is exceptionally safe. We don't have to pay for third party security to protect our family and possessions and we don't even have a wall around our premises!

I know these are two entirely different countries with entirely different systems. Both have good and bad points, but one of them seems to have its priorities right, providing a helping hand and the feeling that one is getting a little value for the taxes one pays.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


Before I started my new life in the UK, we often used to park the car at the southern end of Durban International Airport's runway and watch aeroplanes coming in to land. We found a spot really close to the end of the runway, just outside the perimeter fence and the planes were massive as they came in to land. It was always great fun and he would shout and scream with excitement as the planes soared in barely 50 meters or so above our heads.

When our new life in the UK started and we found ourselves living over an hours drive from the major airport, he was quite disappointed. We weren't going to be able to make our trips anymore. But yesterday we had a free day and the kids are on school holidays so I took a trip to the Heathrow Airport area with my son. Obviously we didn't know the area and had to try and find some good viewing spots.

The differences, obviously, between Heathrow and Durban International Airport are vast. Heading north on the clockwise way around the M25 it becomes very apparent that you are getting near Heathrow. The air traffic is unbelievable for the uninitiated. I'm not sure what the exact stats are, but a plane must take off at least every 2 minutes - it may even be less. If they're taking off in a westerly direction they fly straight over the M25 and they're still very low. My son was in his element, whooping with joy everytime a plane took off and we hadn't even found a place to park and watch yet.

But what has all this got to do with security at Heathrow, you may ask? Well I'll tell you that security may not be perfect but it does work. After a while of watching planes take off we headed for the eastern end of the runway to see if we could find a place to watch the planes coming in to land. We found a great spot outside the entrance to some hire car long term parking spot just outside the perimeter fence. Again there was much excitement as the planes came in to land only meters above our head. At one stage I thought the landing gear was going to break through the sun roof! I grabbed my camcorder and started to film a few of the planes as they came in over our heads. I knew this may be "dangerous" but there were no signs saying it was prohibited.

As we got ready to leave there was a knock on the window and a very well mannered police officer asked me if I had been filming. I'd obviously been seen on CCTV or perhaps they just noticed me as they were patrolling. He asked to see what I had been filming, which I showed him and there appeared to be no problem. He then checked all the vehicle registration details and my address with me and on the computer in his patrol vehicle. There were no further problems and off we went.

Well done to the security at Heathrow and the police! I wasn't doing anything illegal but I could have been. The fact that I was questioned doesn't bother me because I know that he was doing his job and doing it properly. If that makes our lives safer and and the lives of all of Heathrow Airport's users safer then I'm all for it.

I'll take my son back to our spot to watch the planes land again but I might leave the camcorder at home.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Interest rates have recently been cut, again, by the Bank of England. The cut was only by 25 basis points (0.25%) but it was a cut nonetheless. So the cost of money to the main banks and lenders is now cheaper. Normally this is great news.

It's not that simple, however. While the average "man-in-the-street" Englishman with a mortgage hopes that his monthly mortgage payments will come down - they probably won't. This is mainly for 2 reasons.

The first - the way many people have structured their mortgages. I'm not an expert on the types of mortgages the English banks and other lenders offer their customers but I do understand the basic concepts. The problem is that a lot of people have fixed rate mortgages. Here they have chosen to fix their interest rate for some period of time - usually two years. So any interest rate changes - either up or down - will not result in any change to the monthly repayments.

The second - major lenders are not compelled to reduce the rates they offer their customers. So while the Bank of England does it's best to aid the man in the street some lenders will use this as a window period to make more profits. Their costs have come down but they haven't dropped their price to their customers.

It's certainly an interesting time that I have chosen to start my new life in the UK. Normally an interest rate cut by a country's central bank would happen during a period of stable prices, however at the moment, in England, the current government appears to be losing the fight against inflation. Dropping interest rates normally increases the money supply, which in turn drives up the rate of inflation.

It's going to be a very interesting next couple of months. Will the major banks tow the line and pass on the interest rate cuts to their customers and how will the interest rate cut further fuel inflation? Only time will tell.

Monday, 14 April 2008


Right from the outset I knew my new life in the UK was going to start in rented accomodation. For various reasons ranging from family support to kids schools the area where we were going to settle was pretty much decided upon before we left South Africa. We did some research on the internet prior to leaving, but thought it would be best to make a final decision once we had arrived in the UK. Fortunately we had family to stay with on our arrival.

My pre-departure searches on the internet revealed that finding a place to live might be a little confusing. Firstly there was the terminology used to descibe "houses" in England. These range from detached, semi-detached, terraced, end-of-terrace, bungalow and few others that I am not sure I can remember. Over the internet it was fairly difficult to understand what these were. When one "house" in a search a number of options can be omitted.

Admittedly, on arrival, after having spoken to family and friends it became clearer as to exactly what was what. I'll do my best to explain what I think each of these are.

House: just about always double storey but could be anything from a free-standing house to what we South Africans know as a duplex, to one of a row of duplexes joined together.

Bungalow: normally a single-storey house just as we are used to in South Africa.

Detached: normally a free-standing double storey house.

Semi-detached: normally two double-storey houses joined together. Looking from the front or back - one would be on the left and the other on the right.

Terraced: a row of, what we South Africans would call duplexes joined together.

End-of-terrace: as for terraced, above, but the "units" at either end of the row.

I'll discuss in a further post my impressions of housing in general in the UK

Wednesday, 9 April 2008


My new life in England started just as the Rugby World Cup was coming to a very exciting end - so it turned out - for South Africans. We all know the result and I must admit there wasn't too much fanfare about the whole thing in this part of the world.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about in this post. Since we've been here my wife and I have often been asked to explain how an area or a region in South Africa compares to something similar in England. So I have done a bit of research and thought the following would be interesting.

The size of South Africa is 471,443 square miles while England is around one fifth of that at 50,345 square miles. England, however, is much more crowded. There are 50.4 million people living here while South Africa has 48.6m. That gives population densities of 976 and 101 people per square mile respectively. That amazed me. And living here I certainly get the feeling of England being a lot more crowded than South Africa.

South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) is $663.95 billion which looks a little bleak against England's $1.9 trillion. On a per capita basis this equates to $38,000 for the English and R13,845 for the South Afrcans. I'm not sure if I have this spot on, but my understanding of this is that on an average per person basis the English produce about three times as much as South Africans.

Hope that all throws a little light on the two countries and puts them in perspective. At the end of the day, though, South Africa are still the Rugby World Champions and will be for another three and a half years.

Monday, 7 April 2008


Imagine moving into a new house in 3 or 4 days time and you don't have any furniture?? Imagine trying to find the best deal on a car and you don't have one to run around to all the car sales lots to find it?? Imagine trying to find your way around a new country and not knowing where to go?? Imagine trying to find a house to rent in an area in your price range??

Each one of these tasks would blow my mind by itself - but we were faced with that situation shortly after arriving in the UK. Fotunately I had brought along my notebook computer and our family we were staying with had broadband access. Absoultely fantatsic!

We were able to find the right vehicle very quickly without having to drive around to too many places. How - Autotrader on the internet - of course. It even gave the distance we would have to travel from our current location to where the car we were interested in was.

We managed to order all our beds and matresses for next day delivery by searching on-line. Our TV and TV cabinet were also found and purchased on-line.

Yes you guessed it, we also found the house we rented - the delivery address for all these items on the internet as well.

Thinking back I'm not quite sure how we would have managed without broadband access.

The beauty of all this is that in the UK the monthly cost for unlimited broadband access (normally with a free wireless router/hub) is possible for under £20 from a number of different suppliers. So for South Afrcans this comes as a pleasant surprise bearing in mind the exhorbitant rates one has to pay there.