Second Citizenship
April 8, 2024
Reading Time: 9 min

How to Obtain Dual Citizenship in South Africa

A South African passport allows visiting 105 countries without a visa. Meanwhile, passports of EU countries allow travelling visa-free to up to 173 states; above that, they provide their holders with numerous benefits.

Fortunately, South Africans can have dual citizenship and enjoy all the advantages of their second passports. Learn the details on obtaining dual citizenship for South Africans.

Lyle Julien
Lyle Julien

Explained how South Africans can obtain dual citizenship

Dual citizenship for South Africans in 2023

How to Obtain Dual Citizenship in South Africa

Does South Africa allow dual citizenship?

South African citizens can have citizenship in other countries. The right is granted by the SA officials in the country’s Citizenship Act.

There are no restrictions on countries to obtain an additional passport or ways to do so. A national of South Africa can choose any country they want to apply for a second passport.

South Africans must retain their first citizenship before applying for a second passport. After it is done, they can obtain dual citizenship and take advantage of all the benefits the status provides.

Rights and obligations of dual nationals

Usage of the second citizenship. A South African dual citizen can use their foreign nationality freely outside South Africa. However, they may not use their foreign passport to gain an advantage or avoid responsibility in their home country.

Entering and leaving homeland. A South African dual citizen is obliged to always enter and depart the Republic of South Africa with a valid SA passport. It is an offence to do otherwise.

Military service. There’s no mandatory military service in South Africa. But a dual citizen might be obliged to serve in the country of their second citizenship. If a dual citizen serves in the armed forces of a state that is in an ongoing conflict with South Africa, they will lose their SA citizenship.

Tax payments. Unless a South African dual citizen moves from the country permanently and stops being a tax resident of the state, they are obliged to pay taxes as usual, even if it means double taxation.

South African child and regular passport covers

There are two types of South African adult passports: regular and maxi. The only difference between them is that maxi consists of 48 pages instead of 32 pages in the regular one. Both editions are valid for 10 years

Requirements for SA citizens obtaining dual citizenship

Before obtaining a second passport, South Africa citizens must undergo the SA citizenship retention process.

Citizenship retention is not required for people under 18 years old. For them, retention happens automatically. Once a person turns 18 and wants to gain another citizenship, they must follow the standard procedure and retain the SA citizenship.

It is allowed to apply for dual citizenship in South Africa. To do so, an applicant must visit the desired country’s embassy.

What to do before applying for dual citizenship

One needs to retain their SA citizenship before applying for a foreign one. The proof of retainment is a special dual citizenship permission from SA officials. After it is granted, work on a second nationality can be started.

The only case when an adult does not need to retain their passport is if they obtain their second citizenship by marriage. The retention will be done by default.

If a person does not retain their SA citizenship before obtaining a second passport, they will automatically lose their South African ID. People who are citizens of South Africa by birth will still keep permanent residency in the country and can get their SA passports back.

A person is free not to retain their citizenship if they are ready to face the consequences of bureaucracy and time loss. Some people do not retain their SA ID when they are sure they have moved out of the state permanently.

How to retain SA ID

South African citizenship retainment consists of two stages — a Certificate of Non-Acquisition and a Certificate of Retention.

Certificate of Non-Acquisition confirms that a person doesn’t have citizenship in the desired country. It should be received from a foreign authority, such as the embassy or Foreign Affairs Department.

Certificate of Retention, or the BI‑1664 form, requests the SA passport retention. All fields of the form must be filled in. Applicants should pay extra attention to questions 9 and 10 describing their designated citizenship. If they are not properly answered, the paper will be returned, and the petition should be repeated.

Application form for obtaining dual citizenship in South Africa

In question 9, the applicant mentions the country they want to obtain second citizenship and their grounds. Question 10 asks about the applicant's other current citizenships, except SA.

Along with the form, applicants must provide a passport copy and a certificate describing how they obtained SA citizenship: a birth certificate or a naturalisation certificate. All documents need to be translated into English if issued in any other language.

There is no demand to be in South Africa to apply for citizenship retention physically. It is possible to apply for retention from a Home Affairs office within South Africa or the country’s embassy from abroad. The retention process takes up to six weeks.

Once both the Certificates of Non-Acquisition and Retention are obtained, a second passport claim procedure can be initiated.

How to regain SA ID

It is possible to become South African once again, even without retaining citizenship. Any SA citizen by birth always keeps a permanent residence in the country. In such a case, the citizenship resumption may be requested. To do so, a person needs to move to South Africa and apply within the country permanently.

Those who were not SA-born nationals and lost their citizenship must start over and apply for it as regular foreigners. This means they will have to validate their eligibility for South African citizenship and go through the whole naturalisation procedure again without shortcuts.

6 benefits of dual citizenship for South Africans

1. Visa-free travels. SA nationals can enter 105 countries visa-free. A second passport can potentially increase that number. For instance, citizenship in some Caribbean states allows travelling without visas to 150+ destinations, including the Schengen states. For instance, this is the case with countries like Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada.

2. Access to high-quality education. Dual citizens have more options in terms of places to study. They might have more study options within universities, smaller tuition fees, be eligible for national scholarships, and it might not be necessary for them to apply for a special study residence permit.

3. Extended foreign residence period. Dual citizenship may provide the base for extended residence periods in foreign countries compared with the allowed duration of stay for tourists.

4. Tax optimization. Second citizenship sometimes opens up opportunities for lightening the tax burden. For instance, many Caribbean states do not charge gift or inheritance taxes or taxes on dividends, royalties and interest. Meanwhile, the gift tax in South Africa is 20—25%, and royalties are taxed at 15%.

5. Extra citizenship for children. In most countries, a national’s children are granted citizenship of that state. It works both for current and future descendants. Such an extra passport may help them get more international life and career opportunities.

6. Plan B residency. A second nationality may be helpful in emergencies, such as natural catastrophes, quarantines, wars, etc. when evacuation is desirable.

Ways to obtain dual citizenship as a South African

Immigration and citizenship laws change from country to country. From the point of Immigrant Invest experience, the most frequent cases of getting dual citizenship are:

  • Investment;

  • Naturalisation;

  • Descent.

Citizenship by investment. Several countries, such as Turkey, Vanuatu and some Caribbean states, offer citizenship to foreign investors. Unlike other options to obtain a second passport, this one does not imply major life events, such as finding an employer in the country of destination or marrying its national.

Depending on the country, the contribution can be refundable or non-refundable. Generally, the more affordable options are non-refundable. Aside from the investment itself, applicants also pay the government and Due Diligence fees.

Typically, foreigners are allowed to join CBI programs if they are over 18 years old, which can prove the legality of the investment money and, in some cases, prove that they’re a person of good character.

Naturalisation. Many countries allow South Africans to step towards citizenship after legally living there for 5—10 years with a residence permit.

Obtaining a residence permit usually requires some solid base like work, study, marriage to a current citizen, or investment. A few European states offer residence permits for investors: Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta.

Descent. Some countries grant passports to direct descendants of their nationals. For instance, foreigners who can prove that their grandparents were citizens of Malta or Portugal can become citizens of those states. Italy, Hungary and Latvia also provide passports to great-grandchildren and other generations.

Best countries to obtain dual citizenship for South African investors

Our top places giving citizenship by investment are the Caribbean and Turkey. Besides, wealthy people may be granted citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment.

The Caribbean. The Caribbean countries welcoming investors list consists of five members: St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica.

For instance, a foreigner can become a Dominica citizen in 3—6 months if they make a non-refundable contribution of at least $100,000 to the Dominica Economy Diversification Fund.

Nationals of the country can visit 145 countries with no visa required, including the UK, Schengen, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Aside from that, it is possible to apply for a B‑1/B‑2 USA visa for Dominicans. Among other advantages of Dominica tax optimisation opportunities and a fully remote citizenship application process.

Download the guide of comparison of the Caribbean and Vanuatu programs

Practical Guide

Download the guide of comparison of the Caribbean and Vanuatu programs

Turkey citizenship by investment might be a choice for a practical investor because Turkish residential properties cost has grown six times since 2011. Besides, there is no sale restriction on properties gathered by citizenship by investment programme. A property can be sold after three years since the passport is obtained.

Turkey passport holders can get a 5-year C‑2 Schengen visa and visit 111 countries without a permit, including Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Turkish passport also allows E‑2 and B‑1/B‑2 visas to the United States for long-term stay and business.

The investment amount begins at $400,000. The whole process usually takes 6‑8 months.

Will you obtain Turkish citizenship?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain Turkish citizenship?

Malta. Foreign nationals can become Malta citizens by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment. The process takes 1 or 3 years, depending on the investment amount. To obtain citizenship in 3 years, one will need to invest:

  • €600,000 as a contribution to the National Development and Social Fund;

  • €10,000 as a charitable donation;

  • €700,000 as a real estate purchase.

Instead of buying property, the applicant can commit to renting a house for over 5 years. The rent should be at least €12,000 during the first 1 or 3 years and at least €16,000 during the subsequent 5 years.

Malta citizens are allowed to enter 185 countries visa-free, including the USA, Canada, the UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong without visas. Above that, they can reside, study, and work limitlessly in any EU state.

Will you obtain Maltese citizenship?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain Maltese citizenship?

How to get US dual citizenship as a South African

South African nationals obtaining a second passport in the USA are not required to give up their first citizenship.

There are two most common ways to become a United States citizen — three years of marriage to a US citizen or five years of permanent residence. Permanent residence can be obtained by a few methods: green card lottery, by work means, political reasons, and family reunification. Aside from that, it is possible to get US residency by investment.

How to apply for UK dual citizenship for South African residents

South Africans may apply for UK dual citizenship. It can’t be executed abroad. The application is allowed only in the UK.

The general rule is that one must have lived in the UK for 3 to 5 years, meet a certain level of English language knowledge, pass the British Citizenship test, have a clean criminal record, and have some solid source of income. The application process and requirements are milder if an applicant is naturalising via UK citizen marriage or already has strong ties to the UK.

How to apply for Australian dual citizenship for SA residents

There are two ways to apply for Australian dual citizenship. South Africans should visit the High Commission of Australia in Pretoria or any Home Affairs office on the Australian ground. The application process may differ depending on the applicant’s path to citizenship.

Foreigners that want to become Australia citizens by naturalisation need to first live in the country legally for at least years, with the last 12 months in the status of a permanent resident.

It is possible to complete the SA ID retainment even if a person is already in Australia. The procedure is the same as they were in the homeland. The only differences are that they should contact the South African High Commission in Canberra for it and pay an extra 33 AUD non-refundable application fee. One Postal Money Order or Bank cheque for the total amount is preferred. Several applications can be paid with one transaction. Cheques or credit cards are not accepted. Waiting time is from six to twelve months.

Key takeaways

  1. South Africa allows dual citizenship.

  2. SA citizens should complete citizenship retention before applying for any additional citizenship.Except for those getting second nationality through marriage and except minors under 18 y.o.

  3. A South African passport will only be recovered if the retention procedure was done before applying for another citizenship.

  4. The most optimal method to acquire dual citizenship is citizenship by investment. It is available in Turkey and the Caribbean countries. Aside from that, South Africans can obtain citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment in Malta.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

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