Answer to a question from a reader

How can I get an ID if I was born in South Africa to a foreign mother? My mother has an ID.

The short answer

If your mother was not a citizen or permanent resident at the time of your birth, you qualify to be a South African citizen by birth if you have not lived anywhere else but South Africa.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I need help to get my ID. I was born in South Africa to a Mozambican mother. My mother has a South African ID but she has been unable to register me.

The long answer

If your mother was not a citizen or permanent resident at the time of your birth, you qualify to be a South African citizen by birth if you have not lived anywhere else but South Africa, and if your birth has been registered under the  Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA) of 1992. In that case, you can apply for South African citizenship when you are eighteen. 

Section 4(3) of the Citizenship Act says:

“A child born in the Republic of parents who are not South African citizens or who have not been admitted into the Republic for permanent residence, qualifies to apply for South African citizenship upon becoming a major if_

(a)     he or she has lived in the Republic from the date of his or her birth to the date of becoming a major; and

(b)     his or her birth has been registered in accordance with the provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992 (Act 51 of 1992).”

If your birth was not registered under the BDRA, you would first need to apply to the Department of Home Affairs for late registration of birth in order to get a birth certificate, which you need to apply for citizenship.

These are the documents you need to submit to Home Affairs for late registration of birth. You can get the forms from their offices:

  • Application for an ID (Form B1-9);

  • Completed Forms DHA-24, DHA-24/A x 2 and DHA-288 for the registration of birth;

  • Supporting documentation like proof of birth, clinic card etc, as well as written reasons why the birth was not registered within 30 days of birth;

  • Fingerprints of parent/s

  • Your biometrics (fingerprints);

  • Certified copies of parent/s’ IDs, or asylum permit, etc;

But as many people have discovered, getting Home Affairs to register a person in late birth registration is a difficult business, and can stretch out for a ridiculously long time. There is also an administrative fee to be paid to Home Affairs. 

For example, Tebogo Khoza was born in South Africa to foreign parents who were illegally here, and was orphaned at the age of 6. He repeatedly approached Home Affairs to be registered and they refused him repeatedly, saying he had not proved he was born here, having no clinic card and so on. After ten years of trying, he went to Lawyers for Human Rights.

Lawyers for Human Rights took his case to the Gauteng High Court (Khoza v Minister of Home Affairs 27 February 2023). The Court found that Tebogo Khoza had been born in South Africa but had no way of knowing the circumstances of his birth, as he had lost his mother at such an early age. So, the Court said that his application for late birth registration should succeed. Once his late birth registration was done, he would meet the requirements for citizenship in terms of  Section 2(2) of the Citizenship Act, which is for stateless children, and he would also meet the requirements of Section 4(3) that I have quoted above. So the Court said he should be given citizenship. The Court also criticised the appalling way Home Affairs had treated Tebogo Khoza by refusing his application for late birth registration for ten years.

The Constitution requires that all administrative action by the state must be procedurally fair, just and reasonable. Home Affairs has a constitutional responsibility to treat applications for citizenship in a fair, just and reasonable way. 

After the successful court case, Lawyers for Human Rights issued a statement saying, 

“Lack of birth registration (or a birth certificate) is one of the main causes of statelessness in Southern Africa because a birth certificate is the first legal identity issued to a child and that provides the child with proof of two critical facts relevant to establishing their nationality: place of birth and parentage. Lack of birth registration (compounded by other factors) is what resulted in Tebogo Khoza becoming stateless and living as an “invisible” person throughout his childhood and into adulthood. Tebogo has been trying to register his birth and to secure a nationality for 10 years, in the face of a continued and obstinate refusal by the DHA to assist him. DHA has imposed onerous and arbitrary requirements for birth registration that leave many vulnerable people undocumented and at risk of statelessness.”

So, if you are finding difficulties applying for citizenship or registering your birth, you could also contact Lawyers for Human Rights for advice and help.

These are their contact details:


Tel: Musina 015 534 2203

Durban: 031 301 0531

Pretoria: 012 320 2943

Johannesburg: 011 339 1960

Cape Town: 021 424 8561

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Sept. 5, 2023, 11:39 a.m.

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