PLEASE NOTE: We can only assist with surname changes in the event of marriage or divorce. We cannot assist first name and surname changes without a marriage or divorce having occurred.

Although it might seem simple to change your surname after getting married or divorced in South Africa, it can be a tedious task. One can go about this task in a couple of ways, but one of the fastest and most stress-free way of tackling surname changes is with the help of a document assistance agency.

On this page, we look at some of the issues you might face while trying to change your surname after marriage or divorce and what the process of changing your last name entails.

Your status on the Home Affairs system

Rules around surname changes in SA

In essence, while South Africans can change their name or names at any time, there are more concrete rules when the LAST NAME must be changed because of marriage or divorce.

Marriage: A surname can only be changed to the spouse’s surname, double-barrelled with the spouse’s surname, or kept the same. This is mentioned in a statement issued by the DHA.

Divorce: A surname only can be changed back to a maiden or previous surname or kept the same.

In almost all cases, it is a woman who is deciding to change her surname or not. However, many cases involve men wishing to change their surnames to that of their spouse, whether in heterosexual or same-sex marriages and unions.

South Africans can, in essence, change their name for any reason and at any time. However, when it comes to a surname change, many more concrete rules are in place. You cannot simply change your surname because you are unhappy with it. Naturally, certain exceptions apply to the rule. One of these exceptions applies to adopted children that take on the surname of their adoptive parents.

Problems arising from surname changes in South Africa

The main gripe is usually from newlyweds needing new documentation based on their new surnames. After marriage, changing their surnames and obtaining an unabridged marriage certificate takes a very long time, during which they sometimes cannot register for certain services or apply for things in their new names.

Some women have even found that they could not access, open bank accounts, or even vote in national elections.

However, whatever the reason for a surname change in South Africa, the timing taken to update, process, and/or correct surnames seems to be the root of most problems.

Unabridged Marriage Certificate New Format Home Affairs South Africa

How to change your documentation after surname changes in South Africa

Without a registered marriage or divorce on the DHA’s system, or the correct documentation (e.g. a divorce decree), it is very difficult to change anything documentation relating to your name. Usually, the DHA BI-196 Application Form for “Authority to assume another surname” is submitted.

    1. Register your marriage or divorce

Register your marriage or divorce with the Department of Home Affairs. We can assist you to do this.

  1. Your ID document/card
    The first document to change, which allows you to change almost all others, is your ID document. This used to be a booklet, but is now a plastic card with an electronic chip inside it. To obtain this, you will need your new document registration from point 1.
  2. Main identity and financial documents or records
    The next documents are most likely:
    – Passport: Not necessary to change this unless it has expired. You can fly and travel with your old surname and a copy of your marriage or divorce, plus your new ID card.
    – Driver’s license: Same as your passport – you do not need to update this until your license expires. But carry your new ID card together with your driver’s license.
    – SARS / Tax details: Inform SARS and make sure your new details are listed.
    – Bank accounts, bank cards, financial institutions: Inform your bank – they will require a copy of your ID card and possibly marriage certificate or divorce decree.
    – Employee details at your place of work: Let your employer know, as they often send employment records to pension and insurance companies.
  3. Various other possible documents
    – Retirement Annuities
    – Mortgage/s or home loan/s
    – Voter registration entry
    – Doctor, dentist, Medical Aids
    – Life, auto and home insurance policies
    – Investment Accounts
    – Service Providers – ADSL/Telkom, Cell phone contracts
    – Retail accounts
    – Municipality and Utilities
    – Legal Contracts
    – Will and Testament

Tackle surname changes sooner rather than later

The above list is not exhaustive or applicable to everyone, yet it shows that a name change is very intricate. It is important to consider all the implications and therefore have your correct name on your documentation at all times.

It can be a very timely process to wait for the DHA to amend your details on their system.

It’s not uncommon to find newlyweds facing issues when they apply for official processes like immigration using their new surnames. Once a marriage is finalised, it can take quite some time to obtain an unabridged marriage certificate, and during this waiting time, you cannot use your new surname for certain services.

It is essentially the time it takes to update, process, or correct surnames at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) that lies at the root of most complications with regard to surname changes.

Apostil.co.za can assist with surname changes in South Africa if they are the cause of marriage or divorce. Also, get in touch with us today (clients@apostil.co.za) to ask how we can get your marriage or divorce registered quickly in order to obtain the relevant documentation, such as unabridged marriage certificates.