Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself- Changing your Surname.

In South Africa, anyone can apply to have their name changed at the Department of Home Affairs (“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.

A usual consequence of marriage is that a wife adopts her husband’s surname however they can opt to keep their maiden name or have a double-barrel surname. Changing your surname is a common issue faced by married women who either want to change back to their maiden surname for branding purposes or other reasons, are in the process of a divorce, or are widows.

Historically, the procedure followed to change their surname back to their maiden name or prior name was long and tedious.

The Process

No major may assume a new surname unless the change is approved by the Home Affairs Director General. Changing your surname legally requires you to go through Home Affairs. At Home Affairs Form BI-196 (for alteration of the surname of majors) and Form BI-9 (for alteration of identity document) must be completed and submitted together with the following supporting documents:

1.Two passport photographs (for a new identity document to be issued),

2. The applicant’s current identity document which will be surrendered to Home Affairs, and

3. Sufficient written reasons for the change in surname together with supporting documentary proof such as

  • Marriage certificate;
  • Divorce decree, in cases of a divorce; or
  • Birth certificate showing entitlement to use the proposed surname

The application costs R325.00 which is payable at Home Affairs. The process requires systematic planning and involves complicated pre- and post-government gazette (“gazette”) publication compliance. It might take approximately 4-8 weeks. to get your name changed and published in the gazette.


As a professional, changing your surname may harm branding and recognition. You take on the burden of having to inform your employer, clients, banks, and other professional networks. Further to this, you must update all legal documents including property titles, legal contracts and testaments, insurance policies, tax records, banking details, voter registration records, medical aid information, investment account particulars, and municipal accounts.


It is a personal decision and a legal right to change your surname post-divorce. The process is straightforward but requires some paperwork and patience.

By: Tumelo Modise