Many South Africans unwittingly lose their South African citizenship when they apply for citizenship of another country. This can be quite a traumatic experience, especially if you only discover this some time after acquiring foreign citizenship.
How to avoid losing your South African Citizenship
If you plan to apply for citizenship of another country and obtain dual citizenship, it is important that you obtain permission from the South African Department of Home Affairs to retain your South African citizenship BEFORE applying for foreign citizenship. If you don’t, you will automatically lose your South African citizenship.
This rule applies to all South African citizens aged 18 years or older. They must apply and be granted permission to retain their South African citizenship prior to the acquisition of a foreign citizenship. When you complete this process you will be given a “Letter of Retention” proving that you have done so.
If a South African citizen does not obtain this prior permission they will automatically lose their South African citizenship on voluntary acquisition of a foreign citizenship.
South African citizens under the age of 18 years are exempt and do not require to apply for dual citizenship, as long as they acquire the foreign citizenship before their 18th birthday. They automatically retain their South African citizenship for life unless, once they have reached the age of 18 years and they then wish to acquire a further foreign citizenship, they will then have to apply for prior permission to retain their South African citizenship. Failing to do so, they will automatically lose their South African citizenship.
Travelling to South Africa as Dual Citizen
If you have obtained foreign citizenship, but plan to travel to South Africa, you must enter and leave the Republic of South Africa using your South African passport. It is illegal to travel to and from South Africa on a foreign passport if you are a South African citizen.
If you have dual or multiple citizenships you must always ensure that your South African passport remains valid, so that when you travel to South Africa, your South African passports can be used to enter and leave the country.
Resuming South African citizenship after you have lost it
our South African citizenship can only be resumed by permanently moving back to South Africa. South African citizens by birth, who automatically lost their South African citizenship, never lose their right to Permanent Residence in South Africa. Should they permanently return to South Africa, they will be able to apply for the resumption of their South African citizenship from within South Africa.