Names are not cast in stone and it is possible to change them. You can change your name at any time (in your adult life) and for any reason provided that it is not to deceive or defraud or to avoid an obligation. The Registration of Documents Act (CAP 285) read together with the Registration of Documents (Change of Name) Regulations provide the legal basis for this process.
For one to legally change their name, a document known as a Deed Poll needs to be drafted and registered with the Registrar of Documents. The Deed Poll must subsequently be gazetted, and it is only after gazettement that one may legally take up the use of their new name. For the record, gazettement here is via the Kenya Gazette and not a local newspaper. With a Deed Poll, you can change your forenames, your surname, add names, remove names or rearrange your existing names. However, there are some rules that apply before one can successfully change their name, for example:-
1. If you are a married woman, and you make an application for a change of name, then your spouse has to give consent to the proposed change of name.
2. For a woman who has separated from her husband, a certificate from an advocate that she is living separate from her husband is required.
3. If the woman is divorced then her certificate of marriage or evidence of marriage together with decree absolute or certificate of divorce will be required, to facilitate the change of name; and
For minors, a change of name can only be effected by their parent(s) within the first two (2) years of their birth (Section 14 of the Births & Deaths Registration Act (CAP 149) Laws of Kenya).
It goes without saying that the selected new names an applicant makes via a Deed Poll need not be impossible to pronounce, include numbers, symbols or punctuation marks and be vulgar, offensive or blasphemous. The Registrar will reject any name of this nature. Other names that can be rejected are those that promote criminal activities, racial or religious hatred or use of controlled drugs. Names that ridicule people, groups, government departments, companies or organisations too will find themselves in the rejected names list. Finally, names that may result in belief that a person has been conferred or inherited honour, title, rank or academic award, for example, a change of first name to Sir, Lord, Lady, Prince, Princess, Viscount, Baron, Baroness, General, Captain, Professor or Doctor are not acceptable.
For purpose of change of name, one will require:-
a) The duly executed Deed Poll where the applicant renounces their former names and declares that they are adopting a new name.
b) An Affidavit signed by a person resident in Kenya and who has known the person who wishes to change their name for at least 10 years.
c) Letter from the area chief of the applicant confirming the applicant’s residential details and intention to change names.
d) Finger Print Certificate obtained from the office of the Registrar of Persons. Usually said registrar is posted at a Huduma Centre near you. Some will be posted at specific locations within the various Counties in the country at the local Chief’s camp. It is good to inquire ahead of a visit by calling the Huduma Centre Help Desk on +254 (020) 6900020.
e) Copies of the applicant’s Birth Certificate
f) Copy of the applicant’s national identity card
g) Copy of the Certificate of Marriage (where the applicant is a woman and is married) or a Certificate of Separation sworn by an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya confirming separation
h) Decree Absolute or Certificate of Divorce for female applicants that are divorced or in the process of one.
Once all of the above legal requirements are satisfied and concluded, the Deed Poll is registered at the Principal Registry in Nairobi or the Coast Registry. These are the only two registries that Deed Polls are registered in Kenya. The Registrar shall after registration endorse the instrument for advertisement in the Kenya Gazette as a notification to the public of the change of name. Thereafter, one may apply for a new Identity card, Passport, update their Bank account details etc. For minors, a new birth certificate can be applied for and issued etc.
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