passports at SA Banks
Here are the SA banks where you can get your passport. Photo: Steve Kretzmann

Home » How can foreigners become South African citizens legally?

How can foreigners become South African citizens legally?

The question of when and how can foreigners become South African citizens legally is topical one right now for various reasons.

01-12-23 15:45
passports at SA Banks
Here are the SA banks where you can get your passport. Photo: Steve Kretzmann

Essentially, there are three legal ways foreigners become South African citizens. It was clear from our recent story on South African ID card applications, when we were inundated with messages to clarify, that this is a highly relevant topic in the county.

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As in every country around the globe, there are hundreds of permutations in how foreigners become South African citizens. Each country has its own laws and exceptions and not all of them are straightforward. But these are the three routes to follow to South African citizenship if you are foreign born.

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FOREIGNERS BECOME SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS

foreigners become South African citizens
South African passports are coveted by the many looking to qualify for South African citizenship through three legal means. Picture: File.

According to the Western Cape Government website, which quotes the South African Citizenship Amendment Act 2010, there are three ways to South African citizenship. These three legal ways are by birth, descent and naturalisation.

1. CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH

foreigners become South African citizens
Picture: File.

The following applies if:  

  • You were born in South Africa before 6 October 1995.
  • If you were born in South Africa after 6 October 1995, the following must apply for you to be eligible for South African citizenship:
  • One of your parents must be a South African citizen or have held a South African permanent residence permit at the time of your birth.
  • You must be adopted by a South African citizen.
  • Or adopted by someone who holds a South African permanent residence permit and your birth was registered within 30 days.

2. SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZEN BY DESCENT

foreigners become South African citizens
Picture: File.

Foreigners become South African citizens by descent, if the following applies:

  • You can be born outside of the country South Africa but one of your parents must have been a South African citizen.
  • If you were adopted by a South African citizen, and your birth was registered within 30 days, you will be eligible for South African citizenship.  
  • You can refer to this website for further information.

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3. SA CITIZEN BY NATURALISATION

Home Affairs Menlyn Park
Home Affairs. Image: Thuli Dhlamini

This topic is far trickier than you might imagine. And made trickier still due to inefficiencies by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in dealing with applications. But that law states you can apply for South African citizenship through naturalisation in the following ways:  

  • If you have held a permanent residence permit for at least five years.
  • If you have married a South African, or you are a minor under 21 years with a permanent residence. You can refer to the following link HERE for more details.

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RIGHTS OF SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS

south african
Safeguarding your South African citizenship: Image: Adobe Stock

South African citizens have the right to:

  • Vote.
  • Be issued with a South African passport.
  • Come into South Africa after living elsewhere.

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as immigration or legal advice. For further details and advice on particular cases we recommend getting in touch with Lawyers for Human Rights. You can call their immigration hotline on 0800079614 or WhatsApp them on +27817168791.   

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