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.
In terms of Section 6 of the Citizenship Act, South Africans are required to apply for permission to retain their South African citizenship prior to applying for an additional citizenship. If you don’t you will lose your South African citizenship.
The DA are concerned about the issue around the loss of citizenship affecting so many South Africans living abroad, and we are looking into what can be done to avoid this happening. As soon as we have more information on the action we plan to take we will publish the details on our website and notify those on our mailing list. In the meantime, please do ensure you follow the steps below to avoid losing your South African 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. You must apply and be granted permission to retain your 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 you do not obtain this prior permission you will automatically lose your 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
Your 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 you permanently return to South Africa, you will be able to apply for the resumption of you South African citizenship from within South Africa.
It’s important to note that while this method of obtaining your South African citizenship provides you with full residency rights, you will be given a new ID number as a non-citizen, and your voting rights will not be reinstated.
For South Africans in the UK, the High Commission in London has information on their website on how to apply for the retention of your South African citizenship.
Before you apply for your letter of retention you will need a letter from the UK government stating that you don’t yet have UK citizenship. Details on how to obtain that letter can be found on the UK government website.
For South Africans in Australia and New Zealand, the High Commission in Australia has information on their website on how to apply for the retention of your South African citizenship.
If you have particular questions about applying for foreign citizenship and retaining your South African citizenship, the “South African Dual Citizenship Campaign” Facebook Group is very active and may be able to answer your particular questions.