Dual citizenship options for South Africans

Many South Africans are still looking at obtaining a second passport to improve their work, study and travel options overseas. John Dunn, director of citizenship and immigration at Sable International, explains the important issues and processes involved.

Dual citizenship or dual nationality allows you to be a national of multiple countries at the same time. Before you apply to register as a citizen of another country, there are some specific rules you must follow as a South African in order to retain your South African citizenship.


What is the process?

South Africans are permitted to acquire multiple citizenships, under certain conditions. You must apply for and be granted permission by the South African Department of Home Affairs for retention of your South African citizenship before attaining that citizenship. If you don’t do this before receiving the citizenship, you can automatically lose your South African citizenship.

If permission has been granted, you will be given a “Letter of Retention”. This rule applies to all South African citizens aged 18 years or older. Those who are under the age of 18 years are exempt and are not required to apply for dual citizenship, as long as they acquire the foreign citizenship before their 18th birthday.

In some instances where you are deemed a citizen of a foreign country at birth, this means you are able to apply for a passport of that country and not have to register, so you do not need to apply for retention of South African citizenship at all.

When you have dual nationality, you must use your South African passport to enter and exit South Africa. It is considered a criminal offense to use another passport to enter the country if you are a South African passport holder. Outside of the country, you can use your foreign or South African nationality and passport freely.


How do you apply for retention of South African citizenship?

You must complete the DHA-175 and DHA BI-1664 forms and submit these to the Home Affairs office, along with a letter from the Consulate or Embassy proving you have not already obtained citizenship.


Can you resume your South African citizenship after you have lost it?

Even if you’ve lost your South African citizenship, you haven’t lost your right to permanent residence in South Africa. Should you return to South Africa permanently, you will be able to apply for the resumption of your South African citizenship from within South Africa.

If you obtain your South African citizenship through this method, you will gain full residency rights.

You will be given a new ID number and your voting rights will not be reinstated.

Most countries allow dual nationality. Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belarus, Botswana. Bhutan, China, Oman, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore are some of the countries that forbid dual citizenship.


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Dual citizenship options for South Africans