Legal name changes refer to the legal act of allowing a person to adopt a new name, changing the name their received at birth or through marriage or adoption. Name changes can be a result of personal choice, to conceal a person’s identity, or for other ideological or social reasons.
Anyone South African can apply to have their name changed at the Department of Home Affairs. The Identification Act, 1997 (Act No. 68 of 1997) along with the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992 (Act No. 51 of 1992) allow for the amendment or rectification of personal information.
This means that legal name changes can be made by individuals listed in the National Population Register of South Africa (NPR). The NPR holds the personal information of South African permanent residence holders and South African citizens, such as information regarding marriages, births, and deaths.
There are a number of amendments provided for by the Birth and Death Registration Act allowing for legal name changes:
The re- registration of a child born out of wedlock
If a child is born out of wedlock and given the surname of one parent, the child may change his or her surname to the relevant surname if the parents marry after the registration of the birth. The child can be re-registered as a child born within wedlock when the parents marry if both parents sign a BI-59 application form and provide proof of the marriage. This service is provided free of charge.
If a child is born out of wedlock, a biological father may wish to insert his particulars in the birth registration of his child. This requires the completion of a BI-1682 application form sworn to by both the father and the mother. This application costs R48.00.
Insertion of a surname or forename in a birth registration
If a person is registered without a surname or forename, a name can be inserted free of charge upon completion of a BI-795 form.
Change of forename(s)
To change a forename, a BI-85 application form must be submitted by an applicant. For a major, this will cost R80.00; and for a person who is not declared a major (in terms of the Age of Majority Act) or a person who has not entered into a legal marriage the cost is R50.00.
Change of a minor’s surname
The surname of a minor can be changed in a number of different scenarios:
- If the child is born out of wedlock and the mother marries a person (not the child’s natural father) and wished to change her child’s surname to that of her husband.
- If after divorce from or death of her husband (the father of the child) the mother wishes to change the child’s surname to her maiden surname or the surname of her new husband.
- If the child was born out of wedlock and was registered under the father’s name, the mother may change to child’s surname to her won surname.
- The guardian of a minor may wish to change to child’s surname to his or her surname.
- The law also states that other instances may allow for the surname change of a child if sufficient reason exists.
Application cost R50.00 and will be considered upon completion of a BI-193 application form.
Change of surname of majors
No application is necessary for a woman to assume her husband’s name; join her surname to a double barrel surname, or revert to her maiden surname but the Department of Home Affairs should be informed of the change.
No major may assume a new surname unless the change is approved by the Home Affairs Director-General. Applications must be made to Home Affairs with a completed BI-196 form with sufficient reason in writing. This costs R260.00.
Change of gender
A person who has undergone gender reassignment may apply for a change in gender description on a birth register. Applications cost R48.00 and must be accompanied by a completed BI-526 application form with prescribed reports and must be lodged at a Home Affairs office.