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Reasons for wanting to retain South African citizenship

By December 7, 2022FinGlobal

Reasons for wanting to retain South African citizenship

December 7, 2022


Did you know? South Africans who formally and voluntarily attain citizenship in another country without gaining prior consent from the South African government will have their citizenship revoked. With this in mind, let’s take a look at what you need to know about the benefits of retaining your South African citizenship, and how to do it.

Who is at risk of losing their South African citizenship?

Section 6(1)(a) of the South African Citizenship Act, 88 of 1995 states that South Africans must apply for permission to hold on to their citizenship before applying for citizenship in another country. Without completing this process, you are at risk of automatic loss of your South African citizenship when the additional voluntary foreign citizenship is granted.

You do not need to be concerned about automatic loss of South African citizenship if you were granted a second citizenship in the following ways:

  • Your second citizenship came from marriage or an inherent right
  • You were born in another country and were given citizenship by their operation of law
  • Your birth was registered late by your parents or guardian in a country other than South Africa.

Are South Africans allowed to have dual citizenship?

If the correct official procedures are followed, it is possible for a South African citizen to achieve dual citizenship and be a citizen in more than one country. To get this right, it is necessary for a South African citizen (over the age of 18) to apply to the Department of Home Affairs for the approval of their retention of citizenship. 

Do you automatically lose your South African citizenship?

As mentioned, automatic loss of your South African citizenship occurs when you accept citizenship in another country before seeking (and gaining) approval to retain your South African citizenship. You may apply to have your South African citizenship reinstated if you are a former citizen by birth or descent, where you wish to make a permanent return to South Africa.

What is retention of South African citizenship?

Applying to hold onto your South African citizenship is the only way you can keep this citizenship despite becoming citizen in another country. It is, essentially, the process of achieving dual citizenship.

What are the benefits of keeping South African citizenship?

Immigration experts usually advise expats to hold onto their South African citizenship in order to keep their options open. It’s always good to have a Plan B or exit route should the need arise for you to go back to South Africa permanently.

Reasons to keep your South African citizenship:

  • Right to vote: you are only eligible to vote in South African elections if you are a citizen. Holding onto your citizenship ensures that you can still participate in the democratic processes of your home country.
  • Right to return: Should things not work out according to plan overseas, it might be necessary to go home. What would happen if a family member fell ill and you needed to move back? Keep your right of return available. You never know when you might need it.
  • Travel within Africa: The South African Passport is known for its many restrictions, but it does secure visa-free travel to some countries that other passports do not.
  • Generational planning: Even if you decide not to return to the Republic, retaining your South African citizenship keeps this door open for your children or grandchildren who may wish to go back to their family roots.
  • Financial reasons: Although there is no longer as strict a distinction between non-resident and residents in South Africa for exchange control purposes, it is much easier to get credit and hold a transactional bank account in South Africa if you are still a citizen. Furthermore, if you still have assets remaining in SA, it is always advisable to retain your citizenship.

How to retain your South African citizenship

You will need to seek a letter of retention which is issued by the Department of Home Affairs. As an adult South African citizen who wishes to gain foreign citizenship without losing their original citizenship, it is necessary to:

  • Apply for (and be granted) the retention of South African citizenship
  • Then seek acquisition of the foreign citizenship 

What documents must you submit when applying for the retention of South African citizenship?

  • Your Form BI-1664 fully completed in black ink with block letters
  • Your Form BI-529 fully completed in black ink with block letters
  • Copies of South African passport and ID documents certified by the Embassy
  • A self-addressed envelope that will be used to issue your certificate and return any personal documents, with sufficient postage to allow for return by registered mail.
  • Proof of payment of the prescribed application fee.

How long does retention of South African citizenship take?

The processing period for an application for the retention of South African citizenship is 3 – 4 months and you will need to keep this in mind when dealing with matters relating to any additional foreign citizenship.

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