Update: Home Affairs has taken down its eChannel portal to finalise development.
The department emphasised that the system has not launched, and it will announce an official launch date.
Original article: The Department of Home Affairs has put its eChannel portal for Smart ID applications online, with registrations open to the public for brief periods.
Even though a link to the portal is available from the Home Affairs website, the department said it has not “officially launched” the portal.
Using the portal shows it is still under development, with the site giving security errors in Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox for Ubuntu.
Firefox on Windows and Mac also warns you that the site may not be properly secured. It is therefore not advisable that you use the system for the time being.
Despite the portal not being officially launched, a reader reported they were able to register and apply for their Smart ID online.
I was also able to apply online and visit my local bank, where my photo and fingerprints for my Smart ID were taken.
This is what the process looks like.
Update: Home Affairs told us that the process is currently only open to South African-born citizens in Gauteng that are between 30 and 35 years old.

Step 1: Create an account.

Step 2: Create a password and provide answers to security questions for account recovery.

Step 3: Verify cellphone number and email address.
You will be sent a one-time PIN (OTP) and a verification email. You will need to click a link in the email, while the OTP must be entered into the page.

Application Step 1: Log in.
You will be sent another OTP to sign into the eChannel portal.

Application Step 2: Create a new application.
You must have Adobe Flash Player installed to proceed.

Application Step 3: Configure the application.
The Home Affairs application form looks similar to and works much like the SARS eFiling form.

Application Step 4: Fill in the application form.

Application Step 5: Upload supporting documents as directed.

Application Step 6: Make payment.
This section didn’t inspire much confidence, but it should be noted that the eChannel portal is still under construction.
Payment options are available for Absa, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank. You can also skip the payment step and pay when you visit a branch.

Application Step 7: Book an appointment at a branch.
To complete your application, you must visit a branch where your fingerprints and photo will be taken.
You can either make an appointment at a branch that supports priority bookings, or visit your nearest branch within 60 days of submitting the online application.

Application Step 8: Branch selection.
Home Affairs offices and some bank branches were listed.

Application Step 9: Choose a time slot.

Application Step 10: Confirm your booking.
After confirming your booking, you will be able to download the confirmation.
Print it out and take it with you to your appointment.

Go to your appointment.
Participating banks have marked Home Affairs offices inside the branch.

If you skipped the payment step, you will have to pay at the branch.

Get your fingerprints and photo taken.
This all happens digitally. No ink, no photo printing costs.

Return in a week or two after receiving an SMS that your ID is ready.