South African citizenship retention: What expats need to know

Moving to a new country is an exciting adventure filled with opportunities, but for South Africans considering dual citizenship, it’s essential to understand the process of South African citizenship retention. Retaining your South African citizenship while acquiring citizenship in another country involves certain legal considerations and application processes that need to be carefully navigated. This guide provides essential information for South African expats to ensure they remain citizens of South Africa.

Understanding dual citizenship

Dual citizenship, or dual nationality, means that a person is a citizen of two countries simultaneously. For South Africans, this status allows individuals to enjoy the rights and responsibilities of both countries. However, following the correct legal procedures to retain your South African citizenship is crucial when applying for citizenship in another country.

Legal considerations for South African citizenship retention

The South African Citizenship Act stipulates that South African citizens who wish to acquire citizenship of another country must apply for and be granted permission to retain their South African citizenship before obtaining the foreign citizenship. Failure to do so results in the automatic loss of South African citizenship.

Key points to remember:

  1. Apply before acquiring foreign citizenship: You must apply for retention of South African citizenship before acquiring citizenship of another country. Once you obtain foreign citizenship without retaining your South African citizenship, you automatically lose your South African citizenship.
  2. Minors: Children under 18 years of age automatically retain their South African citizenship if one or both of their parents retain their citizenship.
  3. Loss of citizenship: If you lose your South African citizenship, you can reapply for it. However, this process is more complex and not guaranteed.

Application process for South African citizenship retention

To retain your South African citizenship, you need to submit an application to the Department of Home Affairs. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

Step 1: Gather required documents

Before you start your application, make sure you have the following documents ready:

  • Completed BI-1664 form (Application for Retention of South African Citizenship).
  • Your South African passport and ID book.
  • Proof of your current citizenship status.
  • Proof of residence in the foreign country.
  • A letter from the relevant authorities in the foreign country confirming that you will acquire citizenship upon retention of your South African citizenship.

Step 2: Complete the BI-1664 form

Fill out the BI-1664 form accurately. This form can be obtained from the Department of Home Affairs or downloaded from their official website. Ensure that all sections are completed and that your personal details match those on your official documents.

Step 3: Submit your application

Submit your completed application form and supporting documents to the nearest South African embassy, consulate, or the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa. If you are submitting your application from abroad, it is advisable to contact the relevant embassy or consulate for specific submission procedures.

Step 4: Pay the application fee

An application fee is required when submitting your application. The fee varies depending on where you submit your application. Ensure that you confirm the current fee and payment method with the relevant authorities.

Step 5: Await confirmation

Once your application is submitted, it will be processed by the Department of Home Affairs. Processing times may vary, so it is important to apply well in advance of acquiring your new citizenship. You will receive a letter confirming the retention of your South African citizenship once your application is approved.

Benefits of South African citizenship retention

Retaining your South African citizenship while acquiring another nationality offers several benefits, including:

  • Travel: Enjoy the ease of travel between South Africa and your new country without the need for visas or permits.
  • Property ownership: Maintain the right to own property in South Africa.
  • Employment: Retain employment opportunities and the ability to work in both countries.
  • Civic rights: Preserve your voting rights and access to social services in South Africa.

Final thoughts

Navigating the process of retaining your South African citizenship while acquiring a new nationality can be complex, but it’s crucial to ensure you don’t lose your rights and privileges as a South African citizen. You can successfully retain your South African citizenship by understanding the legal considerations and following the correct application procedures.

At, we assist South Africans abroad with all their documentation requirements, including citizenship retention. Whether you need help gathering documents, completing forms, or understanding the application process, our experienced team is here to support you every step. Stay connected to your South African roots and secure your future by retaining your citizenship with the help of