3 ways South Africans can acquire citizenship in another country

 ·30 Apr 2023

A growing number of South Africans are looking at ways to get a second residency or citizenship – either as a ‘plan B’, or to take advantage of a range of lifestyle, business, investment and tax benefits. But if you don’t have the money for a Golden Visa, and don’t want to start a business, there are still alternative options to consider.

While Residency by Investment (RBI) programmes and Golden Visas are notable ways in which a person can gain secondary citizenship, they require millions of rands, which the majority of South Africans do not have.

According to Global Residence Index, golden visas and citizenship by investment are not the same.

Citizenship by investment programs gives full citizenship to the applications, providing the same benefits as a natural-born citizen of that country will receive. Whereas golden visas only offer residency in another country and are only offered for a certain period.

Henley and Partners noted that citizenship through investment is a popular route for wealthy individuals, and there are several countries that offer such a strategy for a premium amount of investment.

These countries include Türkiye, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Austria, Malta and others in the Caribbean – all of which require investments of between R1.8 million and R15 million.

Africa also has its own residency by investment programs in Namibia and Mauritius for those with R5.5 million and R6.8 million, respectively.

The good news is that you don’t need to be wealthy to live and work abroad, said Dani van Vuuren, a business consultant at Sovereign Trust. There are other options available, and the continually changing residency and citizenship landscape means there’s something for everyone.

Three ways to acquire citizenship are listed below, as outlined by Van Vuuren.


If you have parents, grandparents (and in some instances even great-grandparents) born in a different country, you may already be eligible for a second citizenship by descent.

However, you will have to clearly prove your ancestral links and documentation, and you will generally have to live in the country you want citizenship from for the full naturalisation period.

“While the UK is a popular destination for South Africans using an ancestral visa, many countries around the world offer this route to citizenship. It’s worth discussing your options with an adviser,” said Van Vuuren.


If you live and work in a country for a certain period, you can often qualify to apply for permanent residency, and, ultimately, citizenship of that country.

The rules of naturalisation vary from country to country. Typically, they include a promise to obey and uphold that country’s laws and may include additional requirements such as demonstrating an adequate knowledge of a country’s language and culture.

Direct Citizenship Programmes

These programmes offer citizenship within three to six months in exchange for an investment or government donation, generally with no physical presence requirements.

They also provide residency rights within a range of other countries with which the issuing country holds freedom of movement treaties.

Here, popular destinations for South Africans include Malta and several Caribbean countries.

“There are so many points to consider before making a decision on where to seek an alternative residency or citizenship,” said Van Vuuren.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every individual’s choices will differ based on their needs, and it’s critical to get expert advice before making a move to ensure you remain tax-compliant and to navigate the nuances of each programme and country. It’s best to plan well in advance before you uproot your life in South Africa and seek new beginnings.”

Read: How much it costs to get a ‘golden visa’ in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK and the USA

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