How to Change your name in Kenya

We make choices everyday about major and mundane things. From where to work, where to live, what cup to drink tea from etc. The Bill of Rights in Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is designed to give us many freedoms with limitations of course. We have control over most aspects of our lives but little choice over the names to get through life with. Article 53 of the Constitution of Kenya provides that every child has a right to a name and nationality at birth. The choice of name is made for you at birth by your parents or guardians; naturally because you do not have capacity to make that choice at that time. However, later on in life you may realize that you do not like your names maybe your name does not represent who you are, perhaps you have gotten married or divorced and your names carry unnecessary baggage. Whatever the case, your names form a large part of your identity and it is only fair that you are given an opportunity to change your names when they are not a reflection of who you are.
The Registration of Persons Act and the Registration of Documents (Change of Name) Regulations govern how persons can change their names in Kenya. Both Statutes outline different avenues available for applicants who wish to change their names. This article will take you through the process of changing your name and what is required.

When do you get a name?
Article 53 (1a) of the Constitution of Kenya provides that every child has a right to a name and nationality at birth. Section 8 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act provides that all births should be registered within 6(six) months. By the time a child is 6 months old they should ideally have a name and a birth certificate.
Section 14 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act provides that where the parent/guardian wish to alter the names of the child after registration they must make an application to the Registrar of births and deaths within two (2) years of birth. After the two year window one can only change the child’s name through a Deed Poll.

How to change your name
The Registration of Documents (Change of Name) Regulations provide the procedure and requirements for change of name in Kenya.
Section 3 of the Registration of Documents (Change of Name) Regulations, provide that any person/parent/guardian who wishes to change their names or those of their children must do it through a Deed Poll. A Deed Poll is a binding declaration of intention sworn by one or more persons.
Any person can change their names at any time and for any reason provided it is not to deceive or defraud or to avoid an obligation by either: Adding a new name, removing an existing name changing the order of names and attaining a completely different set of names.

The registrar may decline change of the name for the following reasons:

  1. If the chosen name(s) is vulgar, offensive;
  2. The name includes; numbers, symbols or punctuation marks;
  3. The proposed name is impossible to pronounce;
  4. The name incites/promotes criminal activities, racial, religious hatred or use of controlled drugs;
  5. If the name ridicules people, groups, government departments, companies or organizations; and
  6. If the name creates an impression/belief that you have an inherited/conferred title, honor, rank or academic award that you do not have.

Requirements for changing a name for different applicants

The Registration of Documents (Change of Name) Regulations sets out the different documents that applicants require to effect a name change. After preparing the required documents the applicant should present them to Registrar of Documents and pay a prescribed fee of KES:500. If the Registrar is satisfied with the application the Deed Poll is registered and a notice of change of name is published in the Kenya Gazette.

  1. Minors
    below 16 years
    For minors, change of name is effected by the parent/guardian.
    The following documents are required:
    1. A deed poll executed by the parent/guardian.
    2. Statutory Declaration – by a person resident in Kenya and who has known the minor who wishes to change their name.
    3. Birth Certificate.

above 16 years
In addition to the requirement for minors below 16 years, minors above age 16 years must consent to change of their names. The Consent of the minor should be endorsed on the Deed Poll.

b. Adults
All adults who wish to change their names require the following:

  1. Deed Poll;
  2. Statutory Declaration person resident in Kenya and who has known the person who wishes to change their name former and new names; and
  3. Birth Certificate.

c. Married women
Married women are a special category of applicants since upon marriage they have the option to adopt their husband’s names.
Upon marriage
There are two options for changing a name upon marriage:
Through an application to the Registrar of persons under section 9 of the Registration of Persons Rules. Where a woman wishes to change their name upon marriage they may do so by completing a Form – Application for Change of Particulars in ID/CARD, paying KES.1,000 and attaching the following additional documents:

  1. Affidavit stating that you wish to adopt husband’s name
  2. Original and copy of Marriage Certificate/ Affidavit of Marriage
  3. Copies of ID of the wife and husband

Through a Deed Poll
In addition to the documents required for change of name by an adult a married woman must produce the marriage certificate and a written consent from the husband.
Upon separation
Where a woman has separated from her husband but has not yet gotten a divorce or is in the process of divorce proceedings and wishes to change their name; in addition to the documents required for change of name by an adult, they are required to provide a their marriage certificate, and a certificate from an advocate stating that the separation is likely to be permanent.
Upon Divorce
There are two ways of changing a name upon dissolution of a marriage:
Through an application to the Registrar of persons under section 9 of the Registration of Persons Rules. Where a woman wishes to change their name upon dissolution of the marriage they may do so by completing a Form – Application for Change of Particulars in ID/CARD, paying KES:1,000 and attaching the following additional documents:

  1. Affidavit stating that you wish to drop husband’s name.
  2. Original and copy of Marriage Certificate/ Affidavit of Marriage.
  3. Decree of Divorce.

 Through a Deed Poll
In addition to the documents required for change of name by an adult a divorced woman must produce the marriage certificate and Decree of Divorce/Certificate of Divorce.
Upon death of husband
A widow who wishes to drop the husband’s name, is required to provide their marriage certificate and the husband’s death certificate in addition to the documents required for change of name by an adult.

NOTE:
Where the applicant is not resident in Kenya, they must produce evidence that they do not intend such residence to be permanent.

 For married women where the marriage was not registered/there is no marriage certificate an affidavit may be sworn as proof of marriage.
Consequences of changing your name
After the notice of change of name is published in the Kenya Gazette. You are required to apply for new identity documents
A person who changes their names will inevitably have discrepancies with their names in other documents such as National Examination Certificates, Degree etc. They would require an Affidavit of Discrepancy in names on Certificates stating that both the former and new names refer to the same person.

It is more difficult to shake a name the longer you have it. As such it is prudent to change your name at the earliest opportunity to avoid having to alter multiple official documents and records at a later stage.  

Conclusion
Your names form a large part of our identity. Despite the fact that we do not to get to choose them the law offers an avenue where you can change them. We hope now you will not be stuck with a name you do not identify with.

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