The Horrors of Obtaining a Traffic Register Number

Good morning my expat gumdrops,

from the depths of my soul, I have come to humbly ask for your advice. I have no place to turn to anymore, due to varying answers from disapproving officials who do not care what happens to me or anyone else for that matter, as you may all know.

This fiasco started when I finally obtained a Life Partner Permit with a Work Endorsement (which is immediately converted to a Visitor's Visa under section 11 (2) or so I understood) before the new regulations were set in in Feb 2014.
I never obtained a driver's license in my country of origin, so I was hoping to help my fiance out and become a capable driver. Upon visiting the Licensing Department, we were sent away because "I could not apply for a Learner's License on my current visa". Distraught and upset, we seeked advice from DHA and Immigration Officers, which both confirmed that there should be no issue in me booking for a Learner's License Test.

The second time we visited the Licensing Department, we were shouted at and sent away once again, after which we promptly spoke to the manager.
The managed was a slow-witted lady, and after explaining to us that we can indeed apply for a Learner's License, she told us that I must obtain a Traffic Register Number.
Now my South African fiance and I were already aware of this, but what she told us next was simply incomprehensible.

She told me that I *must* register a car in my name upon which they can ONLY THEN issue me a Traffic Register Number.

Why in the world would anyone obtain a car before they can drive legally?!

A second car would not be beneficial to our financial situation just for the purpose of me obtaining a Traffic Register Number. Is the manager out of her mind? Am I truly legally not allowed to obtain a Traffic Register Number without owning a vehicle?

And as many of you know, getting around in South Africa is not easy without a driver's license. In the case of an emergency, should my fiance not be around or unable to drive, what must one do?

Any thoughts or advice on our situation is welcome. I am half expecting the Licensing Department staff to be asking for money under the table, but this is not our way of dealing with things. I am once again disappointed, and desperate for some reassuring answers that all of this a big misunderstanding, before my sanity is compromised.

Thank you so much in advance!

I'm guessing you've seen this page? … ZA#Process

It doesn't really contain anything you don't know, and it doesn't answer your key question. Maybe you do need a vehicle after all, in some kind of twisted logic.

I suggest trying a different station and asking somebody nicer.

Lol! Welcome to South Africa. In my experience talking to the 'workers' is frustrating because often they are not first language English speakers so often miss the point of your question. Many of them believe that if a computer says
something it is cast in stone.Always ask their name when they are unhelpful as it is required when you need to refer
the issue to somebody else.And it makes them realize you mean business.

Ask to see the senior person or somebody who is in charge of the department and if you do not get satisfaction
ask for the number of regional or head office. Often when they hear this they try a little harder to assist.
Or if they put you in touch with the senior take advantage of the situation and talk so much that they will do
anything to get rid of you even if it means assisting you!

Opening your mouth and creating a rumpus is a good tactic. The more noise you make the quicker you are likely
to get helped as they do not want everyone to join you in the offensive.

Find out the customer liaison officer or client care contact number and go this route.

If all else fails go on the net and complain on Hello Peter, a site for gripes. You will most certainly get a response.

In the case of traffic queries call the Johannesburg Metro Police and they will connect you to the correct person to
speak to.

And then there's always prayer!

I am a South African and my wife an expat. She is in SA on a "Relative (spouse) visa/permit". Her passport is still in her maiden name.

She studied (4 years ago) for her SA learners licence, using a book bought at CNA. Once she was ready for her exams, she made an appointment at the local Traffic Department and an eye test was done on the same day. Once she passed her exams, a TRAFFIC REGISTER NUMBER CERTIFICATE was issued by the local Traffic Department. This document serves as a Learners Licence.

She then made use of a local "Driving Instructor" for her practical. One month later the instructor was confident that my wife is ready for her practical test. She passed the test and received her drivers licence (card) two weeks later.

We had no issues what-so-ever! Her car is still in my name, we will change this once she receive her "Permanent Residence Permit".

As one of the "repliers" to your letter mentioned, I also believe it depends on which Traffic Department you go to. Maybe try a small town near you?

Best of luck,


When I first came to the country I did obtain a Traffic Register ID when I purchased a new car, but simply it involved filling out a form (can't remember the number now) at the local Vehicle Licensing Bureau. Please note that's the place you obtain your car license disc and now your drivers license.

Any when over the last year both my daughters have been learning to drive or passed their test and in each case we simply went to the licensing bureau and filled out a form and got a traffic ID there and then. I think you need your ID, but the cost if I remember is free.

Neither of my daughters own a car or had to buy one.

Don't go back to that same office. Better look for another one as you are obviously "marked". I didn't have any problem securing such number and learner's, but on the actual test. When the instructor learned that I went for a "white" owned driving school and I own a car, then he started verbally abusing me. I kept quite for a while and finally gave him a peace of my mind that made him calm down. I failed the test but felt good that I made sure he'll remember me. A month later, we went to St. Helena Bay and got my license there.


Wow, thank you so much for all of your responses!

I have also been reading blogs on the internet, with people mentioning it can be a frustrating and lengthy process.

Armed with the following, I will approach another Traffic Licensing Department tomorrow:

Certified copy of passport
Certified copy of visa
Certified copy of fiance's SA ID
Letter from Employer, stating that I am indeed employed there
Payslip - stating my address as well as further proving my employment
A copy of me and my fiance's cohabitation agreement (just in case)
Filled out TRN forms
Two black and white photographs

The aforementioned information I received from the Traffic Licensing Department in Roodepoort, since they are the only ones that actually answered when I phoned in (out of 20+ Departments that I tried to phone). The cohabitation agreement is really not needed, but a proof of address as well as a 'certified everything' is a must. 

The list is for those who are in the same situation, looking for answers...

I am well aware that the clerks at the Department I went to don't want me there. Having approached the manager, who for some reason came with the unreasonable demand mentioned in the original post ("registering" a car before obtaining a TRN), I don't plan on returning there anymore. We were very polite throughout the whole process, so maybe they just didn't want me there. I am sorry to hear of some of your experiences (abusive comments, preferential treatment towards others because of their circumstances) and hope that better people will be employed in future... but at this point, this is just the dream of many foreigners (and nationals) living in SA.

I spoke to a girl who wrote the Learner's test 5 times, and every time they would fail her by checking her answers against the wrong answer sheet. She was born in South Africa but had lived in Europe and therefore had a foreign passport, but once she obtained her South African ID she finally passed. It's these stories that discourage me to even attempt any of this.

Thank you for the comforting responses though, I will post again tomorrow with the results of my attempt, and hopefully this thread can be closed.


31/10/2014 - Went to a small nearby Licensing Department
Outcome - "Sorry, we can't help you - your must apply at your original place of residence."
Plus - The staff was actually friendly.

04/11/2014 - Visited my local Licensing Department
Outcome - "Our systems are offline since yesterday. You will have to come back another day."

A short poem:
Licensing Department, oh how you put me through a treacherous hell
Your dirty carpets, your chaotic and dodgy appearance -
quite frankly concern me as well
If I don't get mugged or killed before I walk into your doors
surely with you, I am still unlikely to settle my scores.

To be continued

Finally, as of today, I am the "proud" owner of a Traffic Register Number. I would like to post one piece of advise here:

Some Licensing Departments require a letter from a driving school, stating that you have enrolled and plan on getting your driver's license. The Licensing Department where I applied required it, since they had to justify a foreigner's application for applying for a Traffic Register Number (either you wish to register a car in your name, or you would like to obtain a driver's license). I know it's an absolute waste of time, but for anyone struggling to get a TRN as a visa-holder, please make sure that you submit whatever they require (see my previous post with documents on obtaining a TRN).
And for visa holders of a Visitor's Visa under section 11 (2) - in other words, that you are residing with your partner, and for some reason you are refused a TRN, please know that you ARE allowed to be issued one. Don't give up the fight.

As for me, well this saga shall continue, knowing that now I must book to write the Learner's exam at the Licensing Department that chased me and my fiance away twice, like dogs (see original post). This is due to the fact that the Licensing Department that issued my TRN will only book you for February 2015 to write. All one can do is hope that after waiting since 5am in the morning, the witch behind the counter won't give you a face as if she's eaten a sour prune and just give you a good date.

Anyway, I'm happy with my success in finally obtaining a TRN, and wish everyone still attempting to do so a lot of courage and luck. Please try and learn from my mistakes/experiences.

Once more, everyone, thank you for your responses!

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