Dual Citizenship

Both sides of a double-edged sword

  • by onRoute
  • Apr 19, 2017
  • 456

“…it’s an offence for a South African citizen with dual citizenship to enter or depart the Republic using their passport from another country.”

We all have a friend that has a maroon passport or an American passport, and they are never shy to tell you that they will never let it go followed by how unfortunate you are not to have one. But the exciting thing to know about being a South African in 2017, is that the world is almost completely open and connected, so there’s just about nowhere on earth you can’t get into if your affairs are in order and your passport is valid. In fact, South Africa ranks 54th in the world on the Visa Restrictions Index, and there are 97 countries you can get into without a visa, or with a visa on arrival. Regions like Asia, Southern Africa, South America and Central America all allow South Africa citizens easy access to their borders without much hassle. It’s when you want to travel to Europe or North America that things become a little more challenging. This is when having a second passport comes in handy.

According to the South African High Commission, a South African citizen needs to apply for permission to keep their South African citizenship before applying for foreign citizenship. If a South African citizen doesn’t obtain this prior permission, they will automatically lose their South African citizenship on voluntary acquisition of a foreign citizenship. What this means is, if you are over the age of 18 and you wish to acquire the passport of another country, you need to apply to the government in South Africa for permission to do so. The only time you don’t require this permission is if you get dual citizenship before you turn 18.

Everybody loves a backup plan, or at least that’s what they tell you when they have two passports. “If the shit hits the fan at least I know I can jump ship without hassle”, but what is the real benefit of having a second nationality, is it allowed and how far will your South African passport actually take you?

So, if your father was born in another country that allows his South African-born child to gain citizenship, then provided he applies for your dual citizenship before you turn 18, then you may hold dual citizenship. If that application happens after your 18th birthday, then permission from the South African government is required first.

Once you have obtained your dual citizenship, it’s important to note that it’s an offense for a South African citizen with dual citizenship to enter or depart the Republic using their passport from 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. What they do outside South Africa’s borders is completely up to them.

It’s also important to remember that South African citizens by birth, who lose their citizenship through this application process, will 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.

Having dual citizenship really has no real benefit anymore other than saving you a few hundred rands on the occasional visa. Unless you travel very regularly, don’t be ashamed when someone says that not having dual citizenship is like living with handcuffs on. The list of countries you can’t get into with a South African passport is restricted to a handful of weird or war-torn places.