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Change of name under Public Law

01.09.2021 - Article

According to current law a first name or surname may only be changed if an important reason within the meaning of the Law on Name Changes (NamÄndG) justifies this.

Introduction

In principle, the name of a person is assessed according to the provisions of the German Civil Code (BGB). According to this, a change of surname is regularly considered in connection with an event under civil law, such as marriage or divorce. You can find more information on the civil law options for declaring a name in the case of marriage, birth, dissolution of marriage etc. here.

If, in an individual case, a desired name change cannot or can no longer be achieved by means of a civil law name declaration, an application for a name change under public law can be submitted in exceptional cases. Such an application can only be approved if there is an important reason (§§ 3, 11 NamÄndG). In this case, it is important that the applicant's interest in changing the name outweighs  the interests of third parties and the interest of the general public summarised in the social order function of the name. The assessment of, whether there is good cause, is made solely by the administrative authority responsible for the application.

Case constellations

The following are frequent case constellations in South Africa that may be good cause for an application for a change of name under public law.

  • You were born as an illegitimate child and are of age now.
    According to South African law you bear the surname of your father, according to German law you bear the surname of your mother. When you were still a minor, your parents did not undertake a name declaration for you for the German legal sphere. Your parents never married/ never formed a common married name under German law.
  • You were adopted in South Africa / you adopted a child as parents in South Africa.
    After the adoption, the first name was changed. This subsequent change of first name is not valid for the German legal sphere.

In both cases, the fact that you have both German and South African citizenship results in two different names – one name under South African law and a different name under German law. The purpose of the name change under public law is to eliminate that you have two different names (see also No. 49 of the General Administrative Regulation on the Name Change Act - NamÄndVwV).

Competent authority

The competent authority for deciding on an application for a change of first name or surname under public law is the lowest administrative authority (the municipality/city administration or district office):

  • at your place of residence or habitual abode in Germany (if you are currently living in Germany)
  • at your last place of residence or habitual abode in Germany (if you used to live in Germany) or
  • at the place of residence or habitual abode in Germany of your last ancestor who lived in Germany.

Application and required documents

You can apply for a change of name under public law either directly at the competent administrative authority in Germany or via the German Mission abroad responsible for you.

Required documents:

  • Fully completed declaration form
    (the important reason for the name change must be explained in the field “Begründung”)
  • Proof of identity (passport/ID book)
  • Proof of German citizenship
  • Birth certificate (in case of South African birth certificate: with Apostille)
  • If applicable: Current registration certificate of (last) German residence
  • If you never resided in Germany before: Proof of residence of the last ancestor in Germany.
  • For persons 14 years and older: Certificate of good conduct

Depending on the case constellation, the competent authority may require the submission of further proof and documents.

Fees

At the competent administrative authority in Germany, the legal basis for charging fees is § 3 NamÄndDV.
Accordingly, the fees for changing a name are as follows:

  • surname between EUR 2.50 and EUR 1,022.
  • first name between 2.50 and 255 EUR

If an application is rejected or withdrawn, 1/10 to 1/2 of this fee is charged.

The costs for the procedure must be paid directly to the competent administrative authority. Payment processing via the German Mission abroad is not possible.

If you submit the application via a German Mission abroad, additional fees will be charged for the certification of copies and, if applicable, for the certification of your signature. See here.

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