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Law of names

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For German citizens the use of a name is subject to German law. The possibility to choose and use a certain name under German law may differ from the the name being used in South African civil status papers, passports or ID documents.

For German citizens, only German Law of Names is applicable, irrelevant of the name carried in South Africa.


If you got married and did not do a name declaration for the German legal sphere, your surname did not change. If, for example, you got married in South Africa you continue to carry your maiden name in Germany. If you wish to have a common married name or a double-barrelled name, a name declaration is necessary. This also applies to you even if you are a dual citizen and already have your spouse's name in South Africa. Please note that even if a German passport in your preferred name was already issued to you, but the necessity of a name declaration had been overlooked, the situation must be rectified now.

A name declaration can be made at any time during the existence of the marriage. The declaration is irrevocable.

Possible Options:

According to German law, one may either choose the birth or current name of one or the other spouse. The German spouse may then choose a double-barrelled surname for him- or herself.

One may also choose not to apply German law but the law of the other spouse's home country for one's married name. It is advisable to do so if the preferred married name is not permissible according to German law.

Please complete the form thoroughly together with your spouse. Both spouses must personally sign at the Embassy or Consulate. If you want to lodge your declaration via the Embassy in Pretoria, we kindly ask you to make an appointment via EMAIL Please bring the following documents in the original and two uncertified copies of each (only certified copies done by a German authority can be accepted in place of originals). All South African certificates must be unabridged or full.

  • proof of identity of both spouses (passport or ID)
  • proof of German citizenship (e.g. passport, citizenship certificates, naturalisation certificate)
  • birth certificates of both spouses (unabridged or full)
  • birth certificates of all common children (unabridged or full)
  • marriage certificate (unabridged or full)
  • in case of previous marriages: divorce decree or death certificate of former spouse
  • acknowledgement of paternity (if relevant)
  • adoption order (if relevant)
  • Name declaration spouse

Additional documents may be required. The copies you provide will be certified by the Embassy or Consulate. Your originals will be handed back to you immediately.

Documents which are neither in German nor in English must be accompanied by a certified German translation. The Registrar's Office processing your application reserves the right to also request translations of English documents. Please note that several Registrar's Offices will only accept South African certificates with an Apostille. We therefore recommend presenting all certificates with Apostilles now, in order to prevent later delays. Information on Apostilles can be found here.

The Embassy or Consulate will forward the declaration to the competent Registrar's Office in Germany, which will issue a name certificate confirming the new name.

At the Embassy or Consulate, a service fee for certifying the copies (€ 10,-) and the signatures (€ 25,-) is payable on the day of the appointment. Payments can be made either cash in Rand according to the current exchange rate, or by credit card (Mastercard or Visa). The fee for the name certificates issued by the Registrar's Office will be € 10,-.

A child born to German parents abroad does not always have a name for the German legal sphere automatically, even if a name has already been entered into the foreign birth certificate. The name is generally only set if the parents have a common married name at the time of birth. Otherwise a name declaration is necessary, even in those cases where the child has already had German passports issued to him/her but where the necessity of a name declaration had been overlooked.

What is the relevant law? What choices do we have?

1. German law: If both parents are German citizens, German law is automatically applicable for the name of the child. You may either choose the father’s or the mother’s name. In the case of children born in wedlock, the choice will also have a bearing on younger siblings.

2. Foreign law: If one parent has a foreign citizenship, for example if he/she is South African, parents may choose to apply foreign law to the name of the child. Choosing for example South African law is advisable if the child shall have a name not permissible according to German law. The choice does not have any bearing on younger siblings but seperate name declarations must be done.

How to do a name declaration:

If a name declaration is necessary, you may do so within the context of a birth registration (see third page of application for birth registration). If you do not wish to apply for birth registration you may make a seperate name declaration.

Please complete the form thoroughly. Both parents must personally sign at the Embassy or Consulate. If you want to lodge the name declaration via the Embassy in Pretoria, we kindly ask you to make an appointment via EMAIL. Please bring the following documents in the original and two uncertified copies of each (only certified copies done by a German authority can be accepted in place of originals). All South African certificates must be unabridged or full.

  • proof of identity of both parents (passport or ID)
  • proof of citizenships of both parents and the child (e.g. passports, citizenship certificates, naturalisation certificates)
  • birth certificates of both parents
  • birth certificate of the child
  • acknowledgement of paternity (if relevant)
  • marriage certificate of parents (if relevant)
  • in case of previous marriages of the parents: divorce decree or death certificate of former spouse
  • adoption order (if relevant)
  • birth certificates of younger siblings (if relevant)
  • Name declaration child

Additional documents may be required. The copies you provide will be certified by the Embassy or Consulate. Your originals will be handed back to you immediately.

Documents which are neither in German nor in English must be accompanied by a certified German translation. The Registrar's Office processing your application reserves the right to also request translations of English documents. Please note that several Registrar's Offices will only accept South African certificates with an Apostille. We therefore recommend presenting all certificates with Apostilles now, in order to prevent later delays. Information on Apostilles can be found here.

The Embassy or Consulate will forward the declaration to the competent Registrar's Office in Germany, which will issue a name certificate confirming the new name.

At the Embassy or Consulate, a service fee for certifying the copies (€ 10,-) and the signatures (€ 25,-) is payable on the day of the appointment. Payments can be made either cash in Rand according to the current exchange rate, or by credit card (Mastercard or Visa). The fee for the name certificates issued by the Registrar's Office will be € 10,-.

The ending of a marriage by divorce or death does not have any effect on your name. If you wish to return to your maiden name a name declaration is necessary. The Registrar's Office processing your name declaration will most probably require you to have your foreign divorce registered in Germany before proceeding. Information on recognition of divorce can be found here.

Please complete the form thoroughly. You must sign in person at your German Mission. If you want to lodge your declaration via the Embassy in Pretoria, we kindly ask you to make an appointment via EMAIL. Please bring the following documents in the original and two uncertified copies each (only certified copies done by a German authority can be accepted in place of originals). All South African certificates must be unabridged or full.

A divorce or the death of the spouse does not have any effect on your name. However, if you wish to acquire a previous name (for example maiden name after divorce), you may sign the respective declaration with your competent mission. It might be mandatory, that you first have your foreign divorce recognised with the German authorities.

If you are 18 or older and one of your parents is a German citizen and you wish to apply for a German passport for the first time you may also require a name declaration.

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