Answer to a question from a reader

I have been waiting years for Home Affairs to change my marital status. What can I do?

The short answer

Home Affairs is dealing with a huge backlog of applications. You may need legal aid to compel them to process yours now.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I got divorced in 2021. I applied and handed in documents needed for Home Affairs to change my status in February 2022. It's been more than two years and my status is still the same. Now, I want to marry again but I can't because of my current marital status. How can I get Home Affairs to change my marital status?

The long answer

Presumably you have not been given any reason by Home Affairs for the delay? It is supposed to take three months to change your marital status from the time Home Affairs receives your divorce certificate, but I’m afraid that these inordinate delays have been an ongoing problem at Home Affairs for years, made worse by the Covid pandemic. It seems that they have a large backlog of applications to change marital status, and they lack the staff and resources to deal with it. 

The only way Home Affairs could be compelled to amend your marital status more speedily is if a court found the delay unreasonable and ordered the Minister of Home Affairs to issue it within a given period of time. It is certainly an unreasonable delay in your case, since you cannot marry until Home Affairs changes your status and you have been waiting since February 2022. 

But going to court would mean engaging lawyers, which would usually be expensive, unless they were prepared to do it without charging for their services, i.e. pro bono. You could ask Legal Aid, which is a means-tested organisation and must assist people who can’t afford a lawyer, to take it up for you.

These are their contact details:

  • Legal Aid

Tel: 0800 110 110 (Monday to Friday 7AM - 7PM) 
(Please Call Me): 079 835 7179

You could also ask one of the following organisations with much experience of Home Affairs for help and advice:


Helpline: 072 663 3739 or 063 610 1865


Tel: Musina: 015 534 2203 

Durban: 031 301 0531

Pretoria: 012 320 2943

Johannesburg: 011 339 1960

Cape Town: 021 424 856


Johannesburg: 011 836 9831

Cape Town: 021 481 3000

Wishing you the best,

Answered on June 12, 2024, 11:29 a.m.

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