Answer to a question from a reader

I get an error code on my birth certificate when I try to apply for tertiary education. Is there some way around this?

The short answer

You will likely need a late registration of birth certificate but you can apply for a temporary ID in the meantime.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I was born in Mozambique and came to South Africa when I was three months old to live with my dad. I went to school and matriculated here in SA. I have been trying to apply for tertiary education for three years but have failed because there is an error with my birth certificate. 

My dad has an ID but my mom doesn't, so they are afraid of asking for help. How can I get a birth certificate or ID to further my education?

The long answer

Higher education institutions do require a copy of the applicant’s ID, as does the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme). But as your father has an ID document, he must be a South African citizen, which would entitle you to South African citizenship by birth. This is because, after a seven-year legal battle between Home Affairs and an organisation called Lawyers for Human Rights, the Constitutional Court ruled in July 2020 that children born in other countries were entitled to South African citizenship as long as one parent was South African. That means that you would need a certified copy of your father’s ID to apply.  

As your present birth certificate seems not to work, you would probably need to apply for a late registration of birth to get a functional one, for which you would need an appointment with Home Affairs. However, Home Affairs says you need to have a South African ID to get a birth certificate. Under the present Adjusted Level Four lockdown, Home Affairs says they are issuing temporary ID certificates. They do not say exactly how long a temporary ID certificate is valid for, but say it is for “a short time.” 

So, in your case, it may be better to begin with the application for citizenship and an ID. Since they are not issuing permanent IDs at this time, perhaps you should apply for a temporary ID certificate and use it to apply to tertiary institutions.

To get a temporary ID certificate, you need the following:

  • B1-9 form completed in black ink at Home Affairs

  • Two identical ID colour photographs

  • A certified copy of your birth certificate (If there is no birth certificate, forms DHA-24, DHA-24/A x 2 and DHA-288 must be filled in to register the birth. There must also be written reasons for why the birth was not registered.)

  • Proof of address (If you take a utilities bill like an electricity bill, you need an affidavit from your parent to confirm that you live at the address. You can also just apply for a club card from a supermarket, which will give your address.) 

  • Your fingerprints will be taken by Home Affairs officials and printed.

In ordinary times, someone who is applying for an ID for the first time is usually accompanied by one or both of their parents, and they, in turn, must have certified copies of their IDs. In the present time, though, where they want to restrict the number of people inside the offices, you can probably just present a certified copy of your father’s ID. Because of Covid-19, Home Affairs has also got a big backlog and it may take even longer than usual.

It costs R70.00 for a temporary ID certificate.

It is useful to know that in 2018, the Eastern Cape High Court ruled in the Naki case that where it says that both parents must be present to register a birth, the law can be interpreted as “where possible” so that if one parent is not able to be present because of being here illegally, the other can register the child’s birth.

But as you probably know, Home Affairs officials are not always aware of court rulings and may not always comply with them. 

For this reason, and because you have already been trying for three years to sort out your birth certificate, it would be a good idea to consult with organisations who have experience with dealing with Home Affairs.

Here are some organisations which could assist you:

Johannesburg: 011 339 1960, Cape Town: 021 424 8561, Musina: 015 534 2203, Durban: 031 301 0531, Pretoria: 012 3202943. 

For more information on the constitutional rights of children born to non-South African parents: Liesl Muller at 011 339 1960 or email


Tel: 021 465 6433. You can also call the Legal Support Hotline on 066 076 8845. 

  • Legal Resources Centre
    Tel: Cape Town: 021 481 3000
    Tel: Johannesburg: 011 836 9831  

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Aug. 11, 2021, 10:10 a.m.

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