If you currently live abroad and are considering taking up citizenship, you have to make an application to the Department of Home Affairs (or closest SA mission or consulate) to retain your South African citizenship. This is done through a process called retention of South African citizenship.
If you apply for and obtain foreign (or dual) citizenship before applying for the retention of your SA citizenship, you stand to automatically lose your South African citizenship.
What is the retention of South African citizenship?
South Africans that live abroad need permission to keep their SA citizenship intact before they can be granted dual citizenship or citizenship in another country. Without a Letter of Retention of South African Citizenship, SA citizens could automatically lose their citizenship upon voluntary acquisition of foreign citizenship.
To repeat, retention of South African citizenship is a certificate process that allows you to keep your South African citizenship when acquiring citizenship in a foreign country. These certificates are issued by the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa.
Does everyone need to apply for the retention of their citizenship?
All South Africans considering citizenship abroad need to apply for the retention of their SA citizenship. But citizens younger than 18 are exempt from this process if they get foreign citizenship before their 18th birthday. SA citizens under the age of 18 automatically retain their citizenship for life. Unless they wish to acquire further foreign citizenship after they turn 18, they do not need to apply.
Keep in mind that SA citizens by birth that lost their SA citizenship always retain the right to Permanent Residence. If such they return to the country, they can apply for the resumption of SA citizenship. But this is a lengthy process you complete from within South Africa.
Why do I need to apply to keep my South African citizenership?
As mentioned, failure to apply for retention of your citizenship can lead to the immediate loss of your SA citizenship status if you acquire foreign citizenship. Even if you plan to settle abroad permanently, you never know what the future holds. If you do return to South Africa after some time, the consequences might be immense. Resuming your citizenship will not be an easy process if you lost SA citizenship.
Even though this is an option, prevention is always better than cure. Resumption of South African citizenship is a process that requires you to live in the country for an extended period. The administrative (and financial) hassle is just not worth it. Especially when you can protect your citizenship through the process of retention of South African citizenship.
How do I apply for the retention of my citizenship?
To apply for retention of South African citizenship, you need to complete the BI-1664 (Application for Retention of South African Citizenship) and BI-529 (Determination of South African Citizenship) forms.
You must also supply us with clear, scanned copies of your South African passport and residence permit. We may also require other personal documents including Unabridged Birth Certificates and SA IDs. You may also need to provide us with proof that you have not obtained foreign citizenship yet.
Get in touch with Apostil for help with SA citizenship retention
Should you require help with this citizenship document, Apostil.co.za can assist. We take care of your application from abroad, on your behalf. Please contact us or take a look at our pricing and fill in the enquiry form if you need help with the matter.