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South African nationality law

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

South African Citizenship Act
Parliament of South Africa
  • An Act relating to South African citizenship
Enacted byGovernment of South Africa
Status: Current legislation

The Republic of South Africa rewrote its nationality law after the end of apartheid in 1994 and the establishment of majority rule in the country under the newly elected African National Congress. The 1995 South African Citizenship Act revoked the previous Union of South Africa Act of 1949 (which replaced the British Nationality Act) and apartheid-era 1970 Act, the 1970 Act had established separate bantustan citizenship to the country's African majority and inferior levels of citizenship to the country's Asian and coloured minorities.

Citizenship by birth

According to Chapter 2 of the 1995 law, anyone who was considered to be a "citizen by birth" prior to the enactment of the law or who is born in the Republic on or after the enactment of the law is a citizen by birth. Also, a person is a "citizen by birth" if they can be considered a citizen by descent and at the time of birth at least one parent was: 1) in the service of the government, 2) was employed by a person or group located in the Republic, or 3) was in the service of an international organization in which South Africa had membership.[1]

There is an exception to the birthright citizenship provision: those born to visiting foreign diplomats or their employees, or nonresident aliens are not considered to be "citizens by birth" (unless their other parent is a citizen, in which case they are a citizen by birth).

Citizenship by descent

Under the 1995 law, a person born outside South Africa to a South African parent is a South African citizen by descent upon registration of the birth under South African law. Those who did not retain their citizenship after they applied for another citizenship cannot transmit their previously held citizenship.


Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010 (Act No. 17 of 2010) which came into operation on 1 January 2013, citizenship can be acquired by adults through naturalisation if the following conditions are met:

  • Valid residence permit or Certificate of Exemption;
  • One year of ordinary residence in South Africa prior to the application for naturalisation;
  • Applications for naturalisation may only be received by the office if the applicant has been on a Permanent Residence Permit for a period of five (5) years from the date of obtaining Permanent Residence (PR) in the Republic of South Africa. No application may be received by the office if the applicant has less than the prescribed five (5) year period.
  • Be of good and sound character;
  • Intend to remain resident in South Africa, work for a South African government, work in an international organisation in which South Africa is a member, or work for a person or organisation resident or established in South Africa;
  • Be able to communicate in any one of South Africa's official languages satisfactorily;
  • Have adequate knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a South African citizen.
  • It is compulsory to attend Induction to become a citizen of the Republic of South Africa
  • It is compulsory for all to attend the Naturalisation Ceremony and stand before a Judge in order to be granted citizenship in South Africa. Failure to attend would result in withdrawal or non-issuance of Certificate

Naturalisation of an adult also confers South African citizenship upon that adult's minor children.

Loss of citizenship by naturalised South Africans

Naturalised South Africans who left South Africa before 6 October 1988 and did not obtain a 'Letter of Exemption' from the South African authorities may have lost South African citizenship after seven years absence.

Visa-free travel

Visa requirements for South African citizens .mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  South Africa   Visa-free   Visa on arrival  Electronic visa available  Pre-approved visa pick up on arrival  Visa required
Visa requirements for South African citizens
  South Africa
  Visa on arrival
  Electronic visa available
  Pre-approved visa pick up on arrival
  Visa required

Visa requirements for South African citizens are administrative entry restrictions enforced by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of South Africa. In 2017, South African citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 98 countries and territories, ranking the South African passport 55th in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index. Presently, South African citizens have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 103 countries, according to the February 2018 score ranking, the South African passport is 53rd in the world. There are many exemptions for South African citizens in lieu of obtaining a visa if in possession of an Exemption Document, see Visa requirements for South African citizens.

Dual nationality

Prior to 2004, South Africa in principle did not recognise the multiple citizenship of its nationals unless the citizen applied for an exemption or permission letter under a 1995 law permitting South African citizens to travel using foreign passports.

Since 2004, South African dual nationals may travel without hindrance as long as they enter and leave South Africa on their South African passports. Dual nationals may petition for temporary, emergency or "permanent" South African passports for this purpose.

However, a South African citizen who by a formal and voluntary act acquires the citizenship of another country, automatically loses his or her South African citizenship unless they apply for, and receive permission to retain their South African citizenship before acquiring the citizenship of the new country[1]. A naturalized citizen however cannot apply for such a retention under the law. There is not a specific requirement to do so if residing in South Africa or if the claim is inevitable such as a dual Zimbabwean-South Africa possessing the Right of Abode in the UK then registering as a British Citizen but it is advised by the Department of Home Affairs. The Home Affairs has the responsibility to decide whether or not the application would meet by a Voluntary or Formal and decide on whether or not it is necessary to give that permission. If a South African Citizen wishes to restore a previously lost Citizenship (usually by birth in another country or of their ancestors) due to acquiring Citizenship of another country, for instance citizenship of one of the territories that the Soviet Union controlled, then it is not a Voluntary or Formal Act when applying and retention of South African Citizenship is not necessary.

Do note: Upon the introduction of patrility, a concept colloquially known as the right of abode in the United Kingdom, A South African citizen cannot possess the Right of Abode in the United Kingdom as they were not Commonwealth Citizens in 1983 unless they are a Commonwealth Citizen of another country, however if due to registration, British Citizenship and the Right of Abode is given simultaneously.

South African citizens under the age of eighteen (18) years are exempt from the retention requirement and do not require permission as long as they acquire the foreign citizenship before their eighteen (18th) birthday by their parent's right or application. They automatically retain their South African citizenship for life unless; once they have reached the age of 18, they 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.[2]

These laws are not heavily guarded thus entering South Africa with a South African passport will immediately suggest the holder's citizenship.

Entering South Africa on a foreign passport is illegal when in the possession of South African citizenship. If the holder is assumed to have renounced their South African citizenship because there is no evidence to suggest that they are ‘presently’-'once were' South African, then they may pass under the assumption of another state/ that citizen but when it seems that they are a South African citizen, then may they face interrogation when entering or leaving South Africa when entering on another passport. An example of a person still holding South African citizenship to the officer would be: a person (generally above 18) seeking entry with a British citizen passport describing them as above 18, having been born in Republic of South Africa and the person's passport states birth as Johannesburg, but the Home Affairs Officer detects that they last entered on a South African passport by an unknown method. This provision of the Citizenship Act (section 26(B)) only applies to adults ("major citizens").[2]

However, children must also enter and leave on a South African passport.

Those who previously held South African citizenship (other than by naturalization) are always entitled to permanent residence in South Africa and may apply to resume (naturalize) their South African citizenship after indefinitely returning so long there is sufficient proof of previously held South African citizenship. The permanent residence holder will then be required to reside in South Africa until (they) become eligible to restore or naturalize as a South African citizen. The application for resumption of South African citizenship requires proof of residence in South Africa for one year immediately prior to the application. Municipal rates and other utility bills are usually accepted.[3]

Resuming South African citizenship within South Africa after losing by gaining another citizenship by a voluntary or formal act after living for one year in South Africa Permanent Resident can be a lengthy task, thus all ACTION must be taken to avoid the loss of South African citizenship entirely. Should a parent choose make an application to resume, their child will not automatically become citizens. If the child entered in immigration exemption or clearance then later on as a dependent of the permanent visa holder (the parent), then they can later naturalize after a five years residence or after they turn 18, whichever comes first. However, the child could be subject to the one-year residence requirement under certain conditions.

Those who naturalized after obtaining permanent residence (South African citizenship not by birth or descent or registration) cannot apply for permanent residence then citizenship through their claim to previously being a South African citizen as previously stated unless (they) re-reside in South Africa on a pathway to possible permanent residence with an eligible visa again. This is not applicable to those who were born in South Africa or the UK and former colonies or obtained their citizenship by descent and have since lost it.

See also


  1. ^ "South African Citizenship Act" (PDF). South African Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  2. ^
  3. ^

External links

This page was last edited on 10 December 2020, at 23:06
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