Ayanda Maseko could have finished her diploma in her favourite subject, journalism, had Home Affairs issued her with an ID the first time she applied.
Maseko, 21, of Orange Farm in the Vaal, applied for an ID in 2006 at the Home Affairs offices in Johannesburg.
"After the three month waiting period I went to collect my ID," she said. "I was told to re-apply without being given an explanation."
Maseko said she applied again in June 2007 but the application was once again unsuccessful.
"I went back but I was told to apply again," she said.
Maseko said it was only when she applied the fourth time that she was told that she had the same ID numbers as someone else.
"The official promised to find out how this had happened - but I have never had a response. When I call to enquire they tell me there is nothing they can do and that I must reapply."
Maseko said she had applied six times since 2006.
"I desperately need an ID to further my studies. My life is stuck," Maseko said.
She said she wanted a driver's licence but that too was not possible without an ID.
"What is more depressing is that my older sister and younger brother have IDs, while I am stuck with six useless ID duplicates."
Home Affairs spokesman Joseph Mohajane said: "This is a very serious case and needs a thorough investigation."