If the ‘new normal’ has you in a tailspin on how to renew your driver’s licence, you’re not alone.

In December 2020, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted that the validity of licences would be extended along with other permits, only to quietly delete his tweet when the extension wasn’t officially gazetted.

This incident, along with unclear and sometimes contradictory statements from the South African government and municipal licensing departments, has left South African motorists scratching their heads – but no need to worry, if you’ve lost your driving licence or need to renew, we’ve got all the facts to make it easier for you to get back on the road.

What is the real driver’s licence grace period?

Officially, if your learner’s licence, driver’s licence, temporary driver’s licence, or professional driving permit expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 December 2020, it will still be valid until 31 August 2021.

If your licence expires on or after 1 January 2021, the extension won’t apply to you. This grace period also doesn’t apply to licence discs, regardless of when they expired.

Will there be another extension?

In short, no one knows until the government officially gazettes another extension. If your driver’s licence expired on or after 1 January 2021, relying on another extension to buy you time to renew is a game of Russian roulette – so it’s best to renew as soon as possible.

Alright, I’m ready to renew. How do I do it?

Unfortunately, the renewals process has been mired in controversy, even before the pandemic.

The online booking system has been criticised as unstable and slow, with some areas reflecting that there are zero slots available for the foreseeable future. Added to that, there have been several protests in February and March this year at Gauteng testing centres.

Although renewing a driver’s licence is no one’s idea of a good time, it’s necessary to bite the bullet to avoid being fined or arrested. Here’s how:

  • According to communications from the Driving Licence Testing Centre (DLTC), you need to renew your driver’s licence card 4 weeks before it expires. If you begin the renewal process after it’s expired, you’ll have to apply for a temporary driving licence at your own cost.
  • Currently, only Gauteng and Eastern Cape residents can apply online via the National Traffic Information System (NATIS), where they’ll be able to book a slot and download the DL1 application form.
  • Residents of other provinces will need to go to their nearest DLTC and complete the DL1 application form in person.
  • Whether you’ve booked a slot through NATIS or will be going straight to the DLTC, you want to show up as early as possible – when queues are long, even those who have booked slots may be turned away.

What you need to take to the DLTC to renew

There’s nothing more soul-crushing than standing in a queue from 6 AM only to discover you’ve forgotten a vital document. Show up prepared, patient, and armed with a face mask and hand sanitiser. Don’t forget to bring a good book or top up your mobile data, so you’re entertained while you wait.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your ID, old driving licence, or a valid South African passport, along with a certified copy of the identity document. All identity document copies can be certified at your nearest police station.
  • Four black-and-white ID photographs. It should be a clear head-and-shoulders photo where you face the camera directly without a smile – basically, it should look like a 1950s mugshot.
  • You may not wear glasses or hats and will need to check with your local DLTC for the rules around religious or cultural head coverings.
  • Proof of residential address. If your utilities statement isn’t in your name, the owner will have to sign an affidavit confirming you live at the address. Both the utilities statement and affidavit will need to be presented.
  • The application fee. This is usually between R288 – R240 for the license and another R228 for the issuing fee, but you should call ahead as prices can change without notice. Don’t forget to take cash to avoid the dreaded “system offline” payment hurdle.
  • If all goes according to plan, your licence will be ready for collection in 4 – 6 weeks.

What else you’ll need to do at the DLTC

  • Test your eyesight. You’ll want to bring sanitising spray or wipes for this, or you can get your eyes tested at your optometrist and take your results along.
  • Capture your fingerprint. Again, your spray or wipes will come in handy – unless you don’t mind sticking your fingers in the pink goo to clean the ink off, you brave soul.

Wait, what about my licence disc?

Unfortunately, there has been no extension for the grace period on licence discs, no matter when yours expired.

You can renew your licence disc through third parties (although these can be pricey!), you can do it yourself at your nearest Post Office, and some banks also offer a licence disc renewal service at selected branches.

The easiest (and most pandemic-friendly) option? dotsure.co.za’s nifty Licence Protect benefit that’s automatically added to all comprehensive car insurance policies. We’ll give you a head’s up when your disc is about to expire, facilitate the renewal, and even deliver your licence disc to you!

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