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Dual citizenship for South Africans abroad

By October 6, 2021October 11th, 2023FinGlobal

Dual citizenship for South Africans abroad

October 6, 2021


The term “second passport” seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. If you’re not walking around with a second passport, you’re doing it wrong – at least that’s what the general impression is. Getting a second passport seems to be becoming the norm for the average South African. Dual citizenship is not just about having a backup plan if the country “falls apart” but also ensures that you have options. When you get a dual passport, it opens up doors for you in travel, work, and study.

In the past, the notion of dual citizenship was complex for the average South African. If you wanted dual nationality, South Africa would apply strict regulations, but that seems to have changed. Of course, regulations still apply, but South Africa dual citizenship nowadays means that the average Saffa can be a national in multiple countries simultaneously.


South Africa dual citizenship – what you need to know

The good news is that as a South African, you are allowed to acquire citizenship in other countries, but conditions apply. What are those conditions? Here they are:

  • You must first acquire your South African citizenship retention letter before getting your foreign citizenship/passport.
  • Failure to get permission from home affairs first will result in losing your South African citizenship, which essentially means; no dual nationality for you!
  • If you are over 18 years, you must get a “Letter of Retention.”
  • If you are younger than 18 years of age and acquire your second citizenship before your 18th birthday, you don’t need to get a retention letter. You will automatically retain your South African citizenship.


Having two passports – how to use them

Once you have dual citizenship South African/British or dual citizenship South African/USA, for example, you will now be traveling with two sets of passports. Why? Because you need to use your South African passport to enter and exit South Africa. You must never enter South Africa using your foreign passport, as this is considered a criminal offense if you are also a South African passport holder. However, after you have left the country, you can use your foreign passport as you wish.

Let’s put this into practice. Say you have South African/German dual citizenship, you will use your German passport to leave or enter Germany, but you will enter or leave South Africa using your South African passport.


Steps for applying for dual passport in South Africa

South Africa dual citizenship is not too complicated to orchestrate; you just have to make sure that you apply for it as soon as possible. Home Affairs are known to process it in around four weeks, but many people find themselves waiting six to twelve months for the process to be finalised.

Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Download the Department of Home Affairs’ BI-1664, BI-529, and 175 forms.

Step 2: Fill them out and then head to your local Home Affairs office.

Step 3: Wait to hear back from the DHA.

You will need to take the following supporting documents along with you:

  • A certified copy of your ID document and passport.
  • A certified copy of your birth certificate.
  • Proof of address.
  • A letter from the Consulate or Embassy proving that you have not yet acquired citizenship in the country you wish to travel to.


Don’t take the risk – get your retention letter first

Many South Africans don’t know about the retention letter or think they will risk it and get citizenship abroad without first applying for a letter from Home Affairs. This is strongly advised against. The issue won’t come in immediately when you get your citizenship. You may travel between South Africa and the foreign country easily, but when your South African passport expires and needs to be renewed, Home Affairs will tell you that you are no longer registered as a South African citizen. As a non-resident, you are only allowed in the country for certain time periods – which could really throw a spanner in the works for you!

Resuming your South African citizenship after you have lost it is not easy. You can only apply for resumption if you plan to return to South African permanently, and you can only apply for this from within the country. If you resume your citizenship in this way, you will receive a brand new ID number and you won’t be able to vote.


Countries that allow dual citizenship with South Africa

So now that you know how to get your dual nationality, you probably want to know which countries allow dual nationality. Here’s a quick reference list:

  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • USA

Keep in mind that while most countries allow dual citizenship with South Africa, some countries forbid it entirely. These countries include China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Bahamas, Botswana, Belarus, and Bahrain.


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