Immigration and Citizenship
You can acquire South African citizenship in 3 ways; by birth, descent and naturalisation.
The South African Citizenship Act, 1995 (Act 88 of 1995) was amended by the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010 (Act No. 17 of 2010) which came into operation on 1 January 2013. It brought in updated requirements for applications around Citizenship.
- Citizenship by birth
- Citizenship by descent
- Citizenship by naturalisation
- Determination of citizenship status
Find out more about citizenship or contact the Department of Home Affairs.
If you were born in South Africa before October 6, 1995, or were born in South Africa after October 6, 1995, and
- one of your parents was a South African citizen or held a South African permanent residence permit at the time of your birth, or
- you were adopted by a South African citizen, or
- by someone who holds a South African permanent residence permit and
- your birth was registered within 30 days – you automatically qualify for South African citizenship.
If you were born outside of South Africa to a parent who was a South African citizen at the time of your birth or you were adopted by a South African citizen, and your birth was registered, you can apply for citizenship by descent.
How to apply for South African citizenship by descent
You will need to submit the following documents to the Department of Home Affairs:
- Form DHA-24 to register your birth.
- Form BI-24, signed by both parents if your parents were unmarried at the time of your birth, to confirm paternity.
- Forms DHA-529.
- Your birth certificate.
- Your parents’ marriage certificate (if applicable).
- Form DHA-9, the application form for an identity document, along with two ID photographs (for those aged 15 years and over).
- Proof of your parents’ identity.
- If applicable, proof of your parents’ foreign citizenship.
- Adoption order (if applicable).
You can apply for South African citizenship through naturalisation if you have held a permanent residence permit for at least 5 years if you have married a South African, or you are a minor under 21 years with a permanent residence.
How to apply for South African citizenship by naturalisation
You will need to pay the fee for naturalisation and submit the following documents (and copies in most cases) to the Department of Home Affairs.
- Forms DHA-63 and DHA-757.
- Your original South African non-citizen identity document.
- Your marriage certificate (if applicable).
- Your divorce decree (if applicable).
- An application for the re-issue of your identity document, including two ID photographs.
- The fee for the re-issue of your identity document.
- Proof of permanent residence or exemption.
- Form SAP 91 with a full set of fingerprints (needed for a police clearance report for applicants aged 18 years and over).
- If you are under 18 years old, your parents or legal guardian must sign the application form (BI-63).
Determination of citizenship status
- An application for Determination of Citizenship must be forwarded to Head Office before any application is submitted. This is to ensure that a correct application is submitted by the applicant.
- All applications for identity documents, passports and other services must be accepted following confirmation of citizenship status of the applicant by the Head Office.
- All applications for Determination of Citizenship Status must be fully completed in order to comply with the time for the determination of citizenship status.
- DHA -175 (application form).
- DHA -529 (applicant form).
- Proof of continuous residence 1 year prior to application.
- RSA Police report valid for six (6) months from the date of issue.
- Police clearance from country or countries of present nationalities.
- Letter confirming acceptance of dual nationality.
- Proof of payment (R300.00) as per regulated by the National Treasury.
All supporting documents must be attached to enable easy reference to an application. All offices, including embassies, must ensure that office stamps and sign off are adequately done on each application submitted.
South African citizens have certain rights that non-citizens don't have. These include the right to:
- Be issued with a South African passport.
- Come into South Africa after living somewhere else.
Citizenship can be acquired or lost, and people who used to be citizens can resume their citizenship.
Applications for permanent residency in South Africa are considered in terms of Section 26 (Direct Residency Permits) and Section 27 (Residency-on-Other-Grounds Permits) of the Immigration Act 2002 (Act No 13 of 2002) and read with Regulation 33 of the Immigration Regulations.
In order to make an application for a permanent residency permit, applicants must first submit a representation to the Minister of Home Affairs motivating why he or she should be declared not to be a prohibited person or an undesirable person.
Once you have received a positive response from the Minister of Home Affairs, you may submit an application for either a Direct Residency Permit or a Residency-on-Other-Grounds Permit.
- Direct residence permits
- Residency-on-other-grounds permits
- To avoid losing your citizenship/Retention of citizenship
- Automatic loss of citizenship
- Resumption of citizenship
- Exemption from loss of citizenship
- Renunciation of citizenship
This category of permit is applicable to foreigners who have been residing in South Africa on the basis of their work permits for a minimum period of 5 years, their spouses and also to dependents of South African citizens/permanent residence permit holders.
To apply for a direct residency permit you need to complete Form BI-947.
This category of permits applies to foreigners who:
- are in possession of a permanent work offer in South Africa, or
- have exceptional skills and qualifications
- intend to establish a business in South Africa
- qualify as Refugees in terms of Section 27(c) of the Refugees Act
- qualify as retired persons
- are financially independent
- are relatives (biologically or judicially adopted) of a South African citizen/permanent residence permit holder
In addition to completing and submitting Form BI-947, you must also provide the following documentation:
- A full set of fingerprints.
- A marriage certificate / Proof of spousal relationship, if applicable.
- A divorce decree / proof of legal separation, if applicable.
- Proof of custody of a minor, if applicable.
- A death certificate for a late spouse, if applicable.
- The consent of parents in the case of minors.
- Proof of judicial adoption of a minor, if applicable.
- Police clearance certificates for all countries in which you resided for a period of 1 year or longer since your 18th birthday.
- A valid temporary residency permit (if already in South Africa).
To avoid losing your citizenship / Retention of citizenship
If you want to become a citizen of another country while keeping your South African citizenship, you can apply for retention of your SA citizenship by:
Please note: the application must be made and approved before the acquisition of the other citizenship, or you will lose your SA citizenship automatically on the date that you have acquired foreign citizenship.
Unless you have been granted retention of your South African citizenship before acquiring another citizenship, you will lose your South African citizenship automatically if you are 18 years and older and
- have obtained the citizenship of another country by a voluntary and formal act, other than marriage, or
- are serving in the armed forces of another country (where you are also a citizen) and that country is at war with South Africa.
You may apply to have your South African citizenship reinstated if you are a former citizen by birth or descent and you have returned to South Africa permanently or are living in South Africa permanently
Former citizens by naturalisation must re-apply for permanent residence or apply for exemption thereof before they can be considered for resumption.
To apply for resumption, you need to
- Complete Forms DHA-175 and DHA-52.
- Complete application for identity document Form DHA-9.
- Submit two identity document photographs that comply with the Passport and ID Photograph Specifications.
- Submit proof that you live in South Africa permanently (municipal account, etc) and copy thereof.
- Submit your marriage certificate (if applicable) and copy thereof.
- Pay the prescribed fee.
Exemption from loss of citizenship
Persons, who have lost their South African citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country before 6 October 1995, may apply for exemption from the loss.
The following documents are required:
If you are a dual citizen or intend to acquire the citizenship of another country you may apply for renunciation of your SA citizenship.
- Complete Form DHA-246.
- Submit proof of your other citizenship or confirmation that you are applying for another citizenship.
- Submit the documents to your nearest Home Affairs office or South African Embassy, Mission or Consulate.