Answer to a question from a reader

Can I as a Zimbabwean travel to South Africa to give my child my surname?

The short answer

Yes, your child can bear your name. You can travel to South Africa if you have a relative visa.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am Zimbabwean. My South African partner recently gave birth to our first child. Am I allowed to travel to South Africa and have the child bear my surname?

The long answer

These are two separate questions, so let’s deal first with the question of whether your child can bear your surname:

The child’s birth should be registered within 30 days of the birth, and your South African partner would have been given a birth certificate for the child. 

It used to be that if the father wanted his name on the birth certificate, both parents had to complete Form B1-1682 and submit it to any Home Affairs office. In other words, the mother had to give her permission before the father could register the child under his surname.  

Now since the case brought by the Centre for Child Law vs Home Affairs to the Constitutional Court in 2021, unmarried fathers can register their children without needing such permission. The Constitutional Court decided that Section 10 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992 was unconstitutional as it unlawfully discriminated against both unmarried fathers and children born outside of marriage.   

So now unmarried fathers can register their biological children under their surnames.

The second question about whether you can travel to South Africa:

You could apply for a relative visa in terms of Section 18 of the Immigration Act of 2002. This visa allows an immediate family member to apply. Immediate family members can be spouses, life partners, parents, brothers or sisters. They cannot be minor children, says Home Affairs.

You could apply for a relative visa as a life partner if you and your South African partner have been together for at least two years, and you would need to give proof of living together and sharing financial responsibilities for at least two years.

Your partner would have to show that she could support you while here in the amount of R8,500 a month. You would have to submit the following documents as well as the completed application form DHA-1738:

  • Valid passport with at least two free pages and valid for 30 days after the end of your visit;

  • Photocopy of any temporary residence visas in the passport;

  • Two passport-size photographs;

  • Birth certificate;

  • Proof of your relationship (e.g., marriage certificate, affidavit of a permanent relationship for unmarried partners, adoption papers);

  • Evidence of your relative’s South African citizenship (ID or passport);

  • Proof of a minimum of ZAR 8,500 per month as sponsorship from your South African partner;

  • A yellow fever vaccination certificate, depending on where you will be traveling;

  • Police clearance certificates from any country you’ve lived in for a year or more since the age of 18;

  • Medical and radiology reports;

  • Full set of fingerprints.

Following the issuance of Directive 7 of 2019 implemented in July 2019, spouses, life partners and children (minor or major) of South African citizens and permanent residents can submit their relative visa applications in South Africa from a visitor’s visa. 

It’s supposed to take between eight and ten weeks to process the life partner application, but in reality, Home Affairs takes much longer than that.

You could contact an organisation like the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town for help and advice. Here are their contact details:


tel  + 27 (0) 21 465 6433

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Sept. 2, 2022, 1 p.m.

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