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Picture this…you are mingling at an expat braai and overhear a story about how one of the expats lost their South African citizenship after acquiring their new citizenship in the very country you are now in. Your ears prick, because you didn’t know that was possible. Beads of sweat begin to form on your brow. Have you lost your South African citizenship too?

Many South African expats find themselves meeting up and connecting with other SA expats when they emigrate. And it is during this time that they usually hear the horror stories of expats losing their South African citizenship when moving abroad to live and work. The big question begs to be answered: can you really lose your South African citizenship after immigrating? The simple answer is; yes, you can – but only if you choose to. The good news is that you can avoid it losing your citizenship.

It’s important however to note that you won’t simply lose your citizenship in SA if you are in a foreign country for a certain period of time. It’s only a risk if you apply for citizenship in the country you have emigrated to.

Automatic Loss of South African Citizenship

If you plan to apply for citizenship of another country, you can lose your South African citizenship without prior warning. It may sound a little unexpected and harsh, but it’s a reality that you need to be aware of if you are considering moving abroad (of if you are already abroad). In Section 6 of the Citizenship Act, it states that if a South African wishes to apply for citizenship in another country, they must first apply for permission to retain their South African citizenship. Their new citizenship will then be an additional citizenship. Yes, that’s right… if you do things the right way, you will have dual citizenship South Africa. If you fail to do this, you will experience automatic loss of South African citizenship. Another big question to be answered is: do you want to retain your SA citizenship or not? It’s best to give this a bit of thought.

Retention of South African Citizenship: how to Avoid losing south african citizenship

If you are 18 years or older and you don’t want to renounce your South African citizenship, but rather be able to visit the country as you wish, as a citizen, you will need to obtain permission from the Department of Home Affairs for a dual citizenship. The most imperative piece of information that we can share with you is that this must be done before you apply for citizenship in another country.

Once your application has been received and processed, you should receive a letter of citizenship retention from the Department of Home Affairs. It’s important to process this as soon as you know that you wish to apply for citizenship in another country. Don’t leave it for the last minute.

What does this mean for South African citizens under the age of 18 years? Well, for starters, it means fewer hassles. AS long as a South African child under 18 applies for citizenship before their 18th birthday, there is no need for said child to apply for dual citizenship or for a letter of retention in South Africa. Children under the age of 18 years that get citizenship in another country will automatically retain their South African citizenship for life. Only after they are older than 18 years and want to apply for a third citizenship, will they need to apply to retain their South African citizenship with the Department of Home Affairs.

What Do You Do When Visiting South Africa as a Dual Citizen?

If you have retained your citizenship and now have dual citizenship, you might wonder what that means for you when you travel home. Some South African expats experience a bit of confusion when it comes to traveling to and from SA when they have citizenship in their new country. It’s a lot simpler than you might think. Just remember that you must use your South African passport when you arrive in SA and when you leave again. This essentially means that you must keep your South African passport valid, even while you are living and working in another country.

What to Do If You Lose Your SA Citizenship

If this is all news to you, you might worry that you have unwittingly done something wrong. What do you do if you didn’t know all of this before and you have lost your South African citizenship? The bad news is that you cannot reinstate your citizenship or apply for dual citizenship once you have already acquired citizenship in another country.  But it’s not all bad news. You can resume your citizenship if you ever wish to move back to South Africa permanently. If you were born in South Africa and a citizen by birth, you can return to live permanently in the country and then apply for your citizenship to be resumed. Unfortunately, your voting rights won’t be reinstated.

FinGlobal: Financial Emigration experts

Too many South African expats believe that they will automatically lose their South African citizenship, when that’s just not the case. Another misconception that our clients often have is that they need to become a citizen of their new country before they can cash in their South African policies. Whether you want assistance with accessing the funds in your SA retirement annuity, want to ensure that you retain your South African citizenship, or need helpful advice on your financial and tax emigration – FinGlobal can assist. If you need more information, simply contact us. You can give us a call or send us an email today.