Retaining your South African n

Retaining your South African nationality

The retention and resumption of SA citizenship, when acquiring other nationalities, have created widespread interest amongst South Africans worldwide, over the past weeks.

Retaining your South African n


This interest was fuelled by the campaign SA Dual Citizenship, which aims to create a network of South African diaspora worldwide in order to facilitate the retention and resumption of SA citizenship when acquiring other nationalities. The campaign reportedly aims to create a strong enough following in order to generate the necessary funds to take their petition to the SA High and Constitutional Courts.

BIC support the campaign in its aim, but changing a system is definitely not the easy route. South Africans about to apply for citizenship of another country, will be well advised to note that prevention is definitely better than cure in this case. BIC consultants have over the years, often witnessed the frustration of persons who have lost their SA citizenship, either by choice, inaction, or by simply being uninformed about the process of retaining your SA nationality.

As BIC specialises in the fields of British and South African immigration, we take care to advise our South African clients to protect their South African citizenship, before applying for their British citizenship.

Process of retaining your SA nationality

South Africans who are about to apply for British citizenship should take note that they have to apply for the Retention of South African citizenship before they acquire British citizenship, in order to safeguard their SA citizenship. This way their SA citizenship is protected and they are able to hold dual citizenship — SA and UK.

If you fail to formally apply for dual citizenship permission before acquiring British citizenship through naturalisation (including the Ancestry visa route), you will automatically lose your South African citizenship. Naturalisation is of course when you acquire British citizenship in your own right and not through descent.

Persons who acquire British nationality via descent, will not automatically lose their South African citizenship, and do not have to follow the process of retaining their SA citizenship. Descent is passed down by a parent only – British parents that pass their citizenship down to children born outside of the UK.

If you are unsure about your case, please contact a BIC consultant for advice.

It is however possible to re-instate one’s South African citizenship once it has been lost, but may cause quite an administrative hassle, and involves you having to live in SA for an extended period of time. One could apply for a returning resident and so forth but it is a lot of hassle and money and a lot more effort than taking the time to protect it at the onset.

The process to retain your South African nationality has two stages. The first is to apply for a Certificate of Non-Acquisition from the UK Home Office. This is a letter confirming that you have not yet acquired British nationality.

Once this letter is received one will be able to submit the second stage of the application to the South African High Commission. This is when you will be applying for your Certificate of Retention, which will mean that, when you become a national of another country, you will still retain your South African nationality, and will thus be a dual citizen. This application can be done in person or via post. Please speak to your BIC consultant for more advice in this regard.

But why protect your South African citizenship?

BIC consultants advise our South African clients to protect their South African citizenship, before applying for their British citizenship. Clients often ask why they need to bother to do this, as they believe that they are planning to emigrate on a permanent basis.

The reason why this is important differs from individual to individual, for some people they are proudly South African and do not wish to give up their citizenship, some clients on the other hand believe that they will never ever set foot in SA again and as such simply want to expedite their nationality application and don’t want to wait for the protection of their SA citizenship.

We strongly encourage all of our clients to protect their SA citizenship for the following reasons:

  • You never know what the future holds. We have seen it time and time again where a client believes that he/she will never return to SA and then indeed does. If you do decide to return to South Africa, it is a lengthy process, involving a lot of administrative hassle, to re-instate your SA citizenship.
  • Renouncing your SA citizenship or forfeiting your SA citizenship by inaction on your part can also cause a knock on effect on your children. Often times clients forget that their children need to be kept in mind and that by making a quick and hasty decision today might have an impact on their future children and generations down the line.
  • If you are no longer a SA citizen and have SA assets this could have serious impact from a tax point of view, for example inheritance tax point of view, and even simple things like having a SA bank account. If you are not a SA citizen anymore you need to declare that and it will be hard to get credit in SA.

These are just a few reasons that we mention to our clients. Of course at the end of the day it is the personal decision of every individual.

Prevention is however definitely better than cure in our opinion, and following a simple process to protect your SA citizenship from the outset, could prevent a lot of trouble and heartache.

For more information please contact BIC at info@bic-immigration.comor visit our website at