Passport Power: SA tightens measures, US sees record year for passport applications

2017-05-18 10:21
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Cape Town - South Africa's department of home affairs is in the throes of a digitisation overhaul, as the DHA moves to a more Secure information system - especially in a modernised, online world where national identities have become a matter of state security.  

Newly appointed Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, who delivered the 2017/18 Home Affairs budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday, 17 May, confirmed the department had discontinued the paper-based processing of passports. 

Passports can only be acquired through the 179 live capture offices across the country - with the online applications and passport processing via four banks aiming to improve the service to South African citizens.

The department’s key strategic areas are those of civic and immigration services, with Mkhize saying,"We are making inroads into the modernisation programme."

Read more here: Repositioning Home Affairs: 5 Key 2017/18 budget plans outlined   

South African passport ranks in 46th place, but things are looking good for our Green Mamba to expand its power even more in coming years - especially on the African continent. 

SEE: Visa-free travel: Where your South African passport can take you

The US passport is the fourth most powerful passport in the world; and the number of Americans who hold passports has increased dramatically over the years reports AFP. It went up from an estimated 25 percent of the population holding passports in 2006 to about 41 percent currently in 2017.

Factors in the increase include not only the law requiring passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but also cheaper international flights and the fact that millennials tend to travel more and at a younger age than previous generations.

The US State Department says it expects 20.5 million applications for new and renewed passports this year, and that will be a record number, according to the AFP report.

The busy year is no surprise. Adult US passports must be renewed every 10 years, and it was 10 years ago that a new law went into effect requiring passports for Americans traveling to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. That new law resulted in a surge of passport requests in 2007, along with extraordinary delays that stretched into months for some individuals.

Last year the State Department processed 16.8 million passports, but the yearly average is closer to 13 million.

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