South African Citizenship
Significant changes to the citizenship laws have been made with the amendments to the Citizenship Act, which were implemented on 1 January 2013. Since the legislation concerning citizenship in South Africa is highly complex, it is advisable to seek professional advice. IMCOSA will gladly assist with any citizenship requirements.
There are three general grounds for the granting of South African citizenship: Birth, descent and naturalisation. The process for "determination of citizenship" may lead to the confirmation of an existing right to South African citizenship. Persons who previously held South African citizenship and have subsequently lost it may very well be able to reclaim their status.
A naturalisation may generally be applied for if the foreigner has lived in South Africa for 5 years on the basis of a valid permanent residence, during which time he/she may have left South Africa for more than 90 days per year.
It should be noted that a foreign citizenship may automatically be lost if another (e.g. South African) citizenship is applied for. In some cases this can be avoided if prior permission to retain the original citizenship has been granted by the foreign authorities.
There are certain scenarios in which dual citizenship is allowed by both affected countries. There is repeated and ongoing discussion about disallowing dual citizenship altogether and forcing dual citizens to choose between their citizenships. There is currently no single valid regulation or legislation in this regard. In some cases, however, persons may have lost their original citizenship when taking on a new one, without even being aware of it.
In specific cases, former South African citizens have an automatic right to permanent residence. Where a citizenship by birth or descent has been lost, the former citizen usually has an automatic right to permanent residence, which right needs to be officially confirmed. The situation is similar in most cases of former South African citizens born or resident in South West Africa (now Namibia), whose South African citizenship was automatically withdrawn and replaced by Namibian citizenship when Namibia gained political independence from South Africa in 1990.