Answer to a question from a reader

How can I get my ID when Home Affairs can't find my birth certificate in the system?

The short answer

You can apply for a birth certificate in a late registration of birth application.

The whole question

I was born in South Africa and both my parents are Malawians. I was raised by my mother as a single parent. My mother passed away in 2014. When I was in Grade 11, we went to apply for my ID at Home Affairs but we didn't succeed. My birth certificate was not found on the system. I wasn't told the way forward or what they recommend me to do. However, I was told to go back to my home country. I was confused because I haven't been in Malawi before. What can I do?

The long answer

As you were born in South Africa to Malawian parents, in terms of the amended Citizenship Act, you can apply for South African citizenship when you are eighteen if you have not lived anywhere else but South Africa, and if your birth has been registered under the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992.  

The problem here is that if your birth certificate was not found in the system, Home Affairs will say that you were not registered under the Births and Deaths Registration Act and therefore you are not eligible to apply for citizenship.

So where to begin? You can apply for a birth certificate in late registration of birth. It is a long and difficult process, especially as your mother was a single parent and has passed away. Your mother’s friend, whom you live with, would have to stand in, and you would also need to provide the following documents:

  • 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 parents or adoptive parents

  • Your biometrics

  • Certified copies of parents’ IDs, or asylum permit etc.

  • Death certificate of your mother

  • Certified copy of ID of next of kin

  • You must be a South African citizen or permanent residence permit holder, with a valid South African ID.

Even though you can’t produce all these documents, and neither of your parents can be there, your application must still be accepted and considered by Home Affairs, according to the 2018 judgement in the Naki case in the Eastern Cape High Court. This court ruled that the Births and Deaths Registration Act should be read to mean that both parents’ documents must be presented “where possible.”

In your situation, it would be probably be best to ask advice from one of the following organisations which have had a lot of experience with Home Affairs:


Musina: 015 534 2203, Durban: 031 301 0531, Pretoria: 012 3202943, Johannesburg: 011 339 1960. For more information on constitutional rights of children born to non-South African parents: Liesl Muller at 011 339 1960 or email


Email: Tel: 021 465 6433. You can also call the Legal Support Hotline on 066 076 8845. To get in touch with their Advocacy Programme, you can call 0782603536 or send a please-call. This is operational between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.


Tel: Johannesburg: 011 836 9831, Cape Town: 021 481 3000.

Answered on Sept. 7, 2020, 9:45 a.m.

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