Lately a lot of South Africans abroad (and expats who’ve moved back) have woken up to discover that without even knowing it, they’ve relinquished their South African citizenship.

Durban dawn
Many South Africans have woken up to discover they’ve unwittingly lost their citizenship. Photo of Durban dawn by: Richard Cousens

Dylan Hainsworth, who now lives in the UK, phoned the South African High Commission in London to find out more.

This is what she was advised…

“The lady I spoke to confirmed the fact that as I acquired my new nationality outside of South Africa, without applying for the permission to hold dual citizenship (2010 I got mine) from the SA government first, I have lost my South African citizenship.

“If you acquired another citizenship within South Africa she tells me you are ok.

“I told her I did not know. She says as an adult we should always consult the consulate and she believes this is part of the process of naturalisation. I was not aware at the time.

“It is only for citizens who apply outside of South Africa that are affected.

“I now need to go to the office in London with the following:

  • SA passport
  • SA ID book (if lost just fill in a form there)
  • certificate of naturalisation
  • British Passport, and
  • form 529 filled in.

“They will then cancel my passport/ID and issue me with a letter to say I am now a South African permanent resident and no longer a citizen; they will then issue me with a foreign citizen ID book/card and if I ever chose to return to South Africa I will be able to apply for my citizenship back.”

In answer to many related questions that have been asked, here are some points from the SA High Commission website in Australia:

  • South African citizens under the age of 18 years are exempt and are not required to apply for dual citizenship, as long as they acquire the foreign citizenship before their 18th birthday. They automatically retain their South African citizenship for life unless, once they have reached the age of 18 years and they then wish to acquire a further foreign citizenship (in which case they’ll need to apply for permission etc. or lose their SA citizenship).
  • Please note that in terms of the South African Citizenship Act it is an offence for a South African citizen with dual citizenship to enter or depart the Republic of South Africa making use of the passport of another country. Once a person has been granted dual citizenship, the holder must always enter and depart South Africa on their valid South African passport.
  • In essence legislation provides that a South African dual citizen can use his or her foreign passport/citizenship/nationality freely outside South Africa. However, in South Africa, he/she may not use his or her foreign citizenship to gain an advantage or to avoid a responsibility or duty, which he or she as a South African citizen would otherwise have or have not been entitled or subjected to.
  • IMPORTANT: It should be mentioned that South African citizens by birth, who automatically lost their South African citizenship, never lose their right to Permanent Residence in South Africa. Should they permanently return to South Africa, they will be able to apply for the resumption of their South African citizenship from within the Country.

Here is more info, according to the Home Affairs Website:

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:

  • completing Forms DHA-1664 and DHA-529
  • paying the required application fee

Please note: the application must be made and approved before acquisition of the other citizenship, or you will lose your SA citzenship automatically on the date that you have acquired the foreign citizenship.

You can submit the forms to any office of the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa, or any South African embassy, mission or consulate overseas.

Automatic loss of 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.

Resumption of citizenship

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-175and 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:

  • Completed application Form DHA-1666 and DHA-529
  • Payment of the prescribed fee

Renunciation of citizenship

If you are a dual citizen or intend to acquire the citizenship of another country you may apply for renunciation of your SA citizenship.

To apply:

  • 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.

More Info – UK – Australia


  1. “I told her I did not know. She says as an adult we should always consult the consulate and she believes this is part of the process of naturalisation. I was not aware at the time.”

    *She* is right. Acquiring citizenship in another country is a momentous and serious business and not something to take lightly.

    As a citizen, you will gain some rights – and you will lose some. For example, you gain the right to vote. In the US, you also gain the right not to be detained indefinitely (see “the end of habeus corpus for foreigners” in But you may also be able to be drafted (involuntarily enrolled) into your new country’s military. This change may not only affect you, but also the rights and status of your current and future children.

    It is essential to be as fully informed as possible prior to making such a decision. i would not stop with the consulate but also obtain legal advice prior to taking such a step.

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