Your South African citizenship may have been revoked

Thanks to a law created in 1949, South Africans who have acquired citizenship in another country, without the prior written consent of the Minister of Home Affairs, run the risk of losing their South African citizenship.

1st Contact Visas

Who should be concerned?

In terms of Section 6 of the Citizenship Act, South Africans are required to secure the Minister’s prior written consent if they intend to obtain an additional citizenship while retaining their South African status. If you have acquired a second citizenship by a formal and voluntary act, as a major, you will need to ensure that you have not fallen foul of Section 6.

There are certain South African dual citizens who do not have to worry about losing their South African citizenship. If you were granted a second citizenship in the following ways, you do not need the written consent of the Minister to retain your South African citizenship:

  • Your second citizenship was acquired via marriage or an inherent right
  • You were born in a place and were given citizenship by operation of law
  • Your birth was registered late in a country other than South Africa by your parent or guardian

An example of an instance that may cause you to lose your South African citizenship would be the acquisition of a second passport by naturalisation. This commonly happens where you have lived in the UK for five years on a Tier 1 or 2 Visa.

Home Affairs getting tough on immigration

The Department of Home Affairs has begun enforcing immigration laws more rigidly in recent years. Section 6 in the Citizenship Act has been in force since 1949, but has never been enforced consistently. Now, however, with the department seemingly keen to make it more difficult for nationals to move in and out of South Africa, the rule is being enforced.

How to get your South African citizenship re-instated

The time at which you applied for your second citizenship will determine which application process you must follow. There are two options here; you will either have to apply to the Minister to resume your South African citizenship or you will need to apply for an exemption from Section 6 of the act.

Since 2011, just over 2,000 South Africans have lost their SA citizenship as a result of the enforcement of Section 6 of the Citizenship Act. Legal experts have doubted both the legality and constitutionality of this section, but it has yet to be challenged in the courts. As a result, for now, the best thing to do is to ensure you have the required permission from the Minister.

1st Contact Visas specialises in helping South Africans emigrate and obtain citizenship in the UK and Australia. If you need immigration help give us a call, toll free, on 0808 141 1664 (UK),  0800 003 163 (SA),  1800 039 300 (AUS).

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  • Roger Bower

    I am one of the above mentioned 2000 people that got this wonderful surprise when trying to return to South Africa, so I am currently living back in South Africa on my UK passport with a permanent residency visa I managed to get from the home office. Even though they revoke your citizenship, you will always have residency rights, meaning you u can still live, work, pay taxes, get loans and bonds as normal, your ID number Will change and say “non citizen”, the only thing I have been told I cannot do is vote in South Africa. Besides that life is normal when returning you are just on a British Passport. Ps get the residency visa sorted out as soon as you get back to South Africa else it will hinder employment. It’s a pain to get but will help a lot once you have it. The other thing is try and get a letter from the South African embassy in London before returning else they will not have a clue what you talking about when you go in to apply for the residency rights visa.

    • croets

      You do know that you can become a citizen after a year of being on this visa since you returned and live in South Africa. I hope you figured that out.

      • Roger Bower

        I do, but I believe it could jeopardise my British Passport, so decided not to take the risk

        • croets

          The UK allows dual citizenship. From the U.K. Website: “Dual citizenship (also known as dual nationality) is allowed in the UK. This means you can be a British citizen and also a citizen of other countries.

          You don’t need to apply for dual citizenship. You can apply for foreign citizenship and keep your British citizenship.”

          I don’t think it should be a problem if you do…Just giving you all the information needed then you can vote and don’t have to worry about being kicked out.

          • Roger Bower

            Thank you ever so much, I will look into this and get it done, Will save me a lot of explaining at customs in S.A.every time I come though…

    • Candice

      Roger I have been told I cannot change my status once in SA how did u get PR from within SA?

      • Roger Bower

        Hi Candice, no it was done in the UK (London) at the South African Embassy. They should be able to arrange a letter (free of charge) for you basically saying you have taken British Citizenship but have PR Rights. Hope this helps

      • Roger Bower

        Hi Candice, sorry just seen it looks like you backin SA already and having the issue. Try calling First Contact they might be able to give better advice than me, and tell you if there is something that can be done from SA side

        0808 141 1664 (UK), 0800 003 163 (SA

  • Douglas

    Hi, these laws are really confusing and I would like to know where I stand. My Grandfather was born in the UK and my Father in South Africa. My father was registered as a British Citizen. I was registered at birth on my Fathers UK passport in 1975 as a British citizen as well. When I applied for my SA passport in 2006 I was living near Thabazimbi. There was a question in the forms as to whether I held another passport. I left it blank as I wanted more information on the implications of my answer and no one there could speak English properly. In 2007 and 2008 I traveled in and out UK and SA with both passports without a hassle. Am I sill a Dual National or do I need permission the retain my SA citizenship? How has the law changed?

    • croets

      You should be fine since you were a minor and it was before 1995. If you have any problems then you can fill out the forms to be reinstated.

  • KarlvB

    See the following link from the SA Embassy in the UK about retention of citizenship which needs to be applied for and done before naturalising:

    • Trevor van Minnen

      What about citizenship through registration?

      • 1st Contact

        Hi Trevor,

        Prior to attending your citizenship ceremony, you would need to have retained your citizenship, and have applied for dual nationality.

        • Trevor van Minnen

          So what do you mean by inherent right? As i wasn’t naturalised.

          • 1st Contact

            Based on gaining citizenship via a parent.

          • Trevor van Minnen

            That’s how I got my UK citizenship and my SA citizenship was till revoked. I have emailed Home affairs in Pretoria a few days ago and still have not had a reply.

          • Trevor van Minnen

            Here is their reply:

            Thank you for writing to the Department of Home Affairs Contact Centre.
            Kindly be advised that if you obtain the citizenship of another country without notifying your country’s authority then you automatically loose your citizenship.

            So i guess the inherent right is incorrect.

        • Rachel

          Hi 1st Contact,

          Thank you for this very helpful and informative site. My question is. How many days/months is my husband, a Tier 2 dependant to be allowed to be out of the country without affecting his future application for an ILR?

          Thank you so much for your reply.



          • 1st Contact

            Hi Rachel,

            One should not spend more than 180 days out of the UK in each 12 month period, in order to possible qualify for indefinite leave to remain.

          • Rachel

            Hi 1st contact, I am in the UK holding a tier 2 visa. Not having a South African Citizenship. I am from the Philippines.. thank you much!

  • LeonW

    Hi, I have a valid South African passport in my maiden name but have since aquired a British passport in my married name. Has my South African passport been revoked? how would they know if I had 2 passports in different names

    • Andrew Roets

      They wouldn’t, but it would be good to change it to keep it up to date. It depends on how you got citizenship too.

  • Joemoer

    Where this becomes a really big issue is for people (SA citizens) who were not born in SA, they do not retain the right to PR when they lose their SA citizenship under section 6.1 of the SA citizenship Act.
    An example would be one of the hundreds (thousands) of migrants from UK who were automatically naturalised as SA citizens when they turned 16. If those folks acquired citizenship of another country (say NZ, USA, Aus etc) without the first acquiring the permission letter to retain SA citizenship, they automatically lose their SA citizenship and have no right to PR in SA. This is another point where the constitution is ignored. Under the Bill of Rights it states that all SA citizens MUST be treated equal. No where does it state that those who were naturalised should be treated differently.

  • Trevor van Minnen

    Would an inherent right be the same as getting your UK citizenship through registration?

    • Andrew Roets

      Yes, and if you got it before you were 18 you should be fine as you were a minor.

  • Dee

    Hi, I obtained British Citizenship in 2009 without applying for the required permission from the SA government. How do I apply to regain my citizenship? I have been offered a job in SA and want to know if Im allowed to work and if I can make an application to regain my status? Also, how does my British husband join me in SA?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Dee,

      Unfortunately 1st Contact does not assist with Dual Nationality as well as SA visas, however you can get in touch with the South African House for further assistance on your matter.

    • Andrew Roets

      You should be able to go back with a Permanent Residence visa and get your citizenship back after living in South Africa for 1 year. They can’t keep you from moving back if you were born there.

  • Jocelyn Chapman

    This website has a lot of inforamtion on with regards to your south african citizenship for those who hold uk citizenship through decent of a parent.

  • Nelia Marais

    Hi, I wonder if you could help me? I have by default lost my SA citizenship, i have got British citizenship and passport, no valid SA passport. I do not intend to apply to regain SA citizenship, but want to be sure that I would be able to travel to SA on UK passport without being stopped at the gates. As I have automatically lost my SA citizenship, would i still need to renounce it as well?

    • Jomar Barnard

      I would love to know the answer to this question. I became a Canadian Citizen and had no intention to retain my South African passport. Last year we visited South Africa and entered the country without difficulty using our Canadian passports. Upon exciting we had a very rude officer of Home Affairs who insisted to see our South African passports. The more we explained to her that we are not citizens anymore, the more rude she became and then gave us a warning letter that the next time we try to enter South Africa, we require to present a South African passport or risk fines or imprisonment!
      Upon returning to Canada, I inquired with the South African consulate in Toronto and was informed by a Ms. Alexandrov that: “”Kindly note that it is their understanding that when you meant you no longer wanted anything to do with South Africa you in a way meant you won’t be visiting too “! She advised me that I have to now officially renounce my South African citizenship (does not make sense if the law says I already lost it – right?). The problem is that this renunciation takes a year to be completed. Wow a full year for something I automatically lost?! But I did send in my application, and this is pending.
      I now have to visit South Africa for a family event in August and was told by the same Ms. Alexandrov that I now have to apply for a South African ID document that demonstrates that I am a permanent resident and with this and my Canadian passport I would be allowed to enter into South Africa. I am however a Citizen of Canada. Not a permanent resident. Neither I am supposed to be a South African citizen, so how can I get a South African ID document?! However, I complied, more than a month ago. I am still waiting.
      I inquired with the South African department of home affairs and was informed that after a month, my application is not even in the system!!!

      Nowhere can I find any confirmation of all of this. Does anybody else know the answers to this?

      • Nelia Marais

        Hi Jomar, unfortunately I have not had an answer yet. Could anyone please help with the right information?
        Many thanks.

        • 1st Contact

          Hi Nelia,

          You would not need to renounce it as well. You would however need to apply for a visa to enter South Africa.

    • Nets

      Hi Nelia, I suggest you speak to someone at the SA Consulate in the UK. You should not have to go through the renounciation process if you lost your citizenship prior to 1995 but judging from what Jomar went through, there is no guarantee that you’ll not run into difficulty when entering or leaving SA. You might consider registering with the FCO – and take your chances with the status quo. However, chat with someone there (call 0845 850 2829) to see if they will protect you in this regard since they cannot protect people from countries like Iran where dual citizenship is not recognizes, and you cannot renounce your citizenship.

  • Claire Groenewald

    Above it says that it isn’t necessary to fill in a form to retain SA citizenship if: ‘your second citizenship was acquired as a result of marriage’; however, my husband’s South African citizenship was revoked. He is/was a SA citizen, but he married me (a British citizen). Shortly after getting his British passport, he received a letter to say his SA citizenship had been revoked. Where do we stand on this? Is it his mistake for not applying for dual nationality, or did they unfairly/incorrectly revoke his status? Thank you.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Claire, it would best for your husband to get in touch with SA House in order to address the matter.