Many South African emigrants who have obtained citizenship in other countries may be surprised when they discover that they no longer have SA citizenship and the right to vote.

According to a law firm, approximately 2000 South African expatriates have lost their citizenship between 2011 and 2015. In most cases the withdrawal is only detected when a new South African passport is applied for.

Many people are not aware that they need to apply to the Minister of Home Affairs for consent prior to obtaining a foreign citizenship. If they fail to do that, they automatically lose their South African citizenship!

This however only applies if the person is not a minor and is not applying for citizenship to the other country because of marriage in that country. It has to be a formal and voluntary acceptance of a foreign citizenship.

In this regard, it is important to note the difference between obtaining the other nationality through descent and naturalisation.


Persons who acquire another nationality via descent, will not automatically lose their South African citizenship (provided he/she can automatically apply for the second passport without lodging a formal application for such citizenship), and do not have to follow the process of retaining their SA citizenship. Descent is passed down by a parent only. An example is a British parent that passes citizenship down to children born outside of the UK.


This is applicable to people who obtain a second nationality through a formal application (i.e. after holding indefinite leave to remain for a certain period). If you can obtain another citizenship through naturalisation, you have to apply formally for the retention of your SA citizenship, before acquiring the other nationality. If you fail to do so, you will automatically lose your South African citizenship.

The Citizenship Act has been in force since 1949, but only recently has the Government become strict on this issue. An application to retain the SA citizenship can be done at the Department of Home Affairs or the South African Embassies or Consulates abroad. The process can easily take up to 12 months.
It needs to be noted that the person will still have permanent residence and has the right to work etc. The citizenship extends the right to take part in elections and the person can no longer vote.