Answer to a question from a reader

I'm a 27-year-old asylum seeker. Can I still be adopted?

The short answer

You might need legal assistance.

The whole question

I am 27-years-old and came to South Africa when I was 18-years-old. I've been staying with a South African family for 9 years now, and they want to adopt me as their child. However, my asylum documents expired in August 2019. I was also involved in an accident for which I am still receiving medical treatment. Is it possible for me to be adopted?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking if it is possible for you to be adopted by the South African family that you have been living with for the last nine years since you were 18 years old, given that your asylum papers expired in August 2019 after you had an accident.

Though I could find no information about adult adoption in South Africa after an exhaustive search, I did come across this reference:” ...according to the Children's Act 38 of 2005, a child is considered someone under the age of 18 years and when it comes to the adoption process, anyone older than 18 cannot be adopted in South Africa.”

This is not the case in the United Kingdom and in many states in America, but does seem to be the case here.

The family that you have been living with can assist you to change your name legally to their name, though, once you have dealt with the problem of your expired asylum papers.

The acting national director of Lawyers for Human Rights has called on the government to stop all unnecessary arrests, detentions and deportations of asylum seekers during the period of the lockdown, but there has as yet been no response.

Although you will not be able to address it with Home Affairs until 30 April because of the lockdown, you should write a letter explaining that you had an accident which made it impossible for you to renew your asylum papers in time, and include medical certificates and whatever other proof of the accident that you may have.

You could ask the following organisations for advice and assistance when this becomes possible:  

Lawyers for Human Rights (Refugee and Migrant rights Programme (RMRP)) at

          Johannesburg: 011 339 1960

          Cape Town office:
          021 424 8561 


Legal Resources Centre: email:

PASSOP: Cape Town 021 762 0322

Answered on April 22, 2020, 5:15 p.m.

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