South African Passports and Dual Citizenship Issues

Breytenbachs get frequent queries from South Africans on citizenship and passport issues. Our SA Immigration consultants have compiled a brief guide for South Africans on their dual citizenship and passport issues. If you need more information, please feel free to get in touch with Breytenbachs.

South Africans and Dual Citizenship

South Africans are allowed to hold more than two nationalities.

It is, however, crucial that persons protect their South African citizenship before taking on any other nationality through naturalisation. Should you fail to do so, you will automatically lose your South African citizenship.

Retaining your South African Nationality

South Africans who are about to apply for another citizenship through naturalisation must apply for the Retention of SA citizenship. The must do this before they acquire another citizenship. They must do this to safeguard their SA citizenship. The retention process ensures that their SA citizenship is protected and they can hold another nationality. 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. They, thus, 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 applies 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 must apply formally for the retention of your SA citizenship. You must do this before acquiring the other nationality. If you fail to do so, you will automatically lose your South African citizenship. 

Reasons for protecting your South African Citizenship

Clients often ask the consultants at Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants (BIC) why they need to protect their SA Citizenship. They are often of the opinion that their move overseas is a permanent one. 

Reasons will, of course, differ from case to case, and the decision is a personal one. However, protecting your SA citizenship in the first instance is a relatively simple process. Protecting it from the outset can prevent a lot future hassle, should a person’s circumstances change.  

How to Retain Your SA Nationality

The process to retain your South African nationality has two stages. The first involves applying for a Certificate of Non-Acquisition from the relevant government authority. This will be where you will obtain your second citizenship.

The second stage involves applying for your Certificate of Retention from the relevant SA authorities. This could be the South African High Commission or SA Embassy, or SA Home Affairs offices in SA.  Please speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for more advice in this regard. 

Reinstating your South African citizenship

It is possible to re-instate your South African Citizenship, should you have lost it by inaction or due to being uninformed about the required process of retaining one’s South African nationality. Breytenbachs have a dedicated team of SA Immigration consultants in South Africa. They deal with the SA Department of Home Affairs and will be able to assist in every unique circumstance. However, note that this can be a time-consuming process involving much red tape.

South African Passports

Renewing your SA Passport Overseas

It is possible to renew your passport overseas. You can do this at the nearest SA representative offices overseas. In the UK, it can be done through the VFS offices. Applicants will need to provide the relevant documents. E.g., birth/marriage certificate and provide the retention letter if they hold other citizenships.

Using your SA Passport to Enter and Exit South Africa

The South African Citizenship Act dictates that any person who has the right to make use of an SA Travel Document (passport) must enter and leave South Africa with their SA passport. If you fail to do so, it can be seen as a punishable offence.

Travellers with dual citizenship (SA and UK) must travel with both passports. They must enter the UK with their UK passport as proof of their right to enter the UK.

Criteria for renewing your SA Passport Overseas

Applicants will need to provide the relevant documents. E.g., birth/marriage certificate and provide the retention letter if they hold other citizenships. The relevant SA authorities overseas will be able to advise, such as SA High Commission in the UK.

Validity of SA Passport

One cannot renew a SA passport. Once the validity expires, you must apply for a new passport.

The SA authorities state that your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after the intended departure date. The passport should also have at least two blank pages for entry stamps. The empty pages exclude the endorsement pages.

However, it is important to note that some countries require your passport to be valid for three or six months past your intended travel date. This requirement differs from country to country. We strongly advise that you speak to your travel agent or airline for advice.

Maxi Passports for South Africans

A regular SA passport contains 32 pages. However, frequent travellers can apply for a maxi passport with 48 pages. 

Third Parties Collecting SA Passports

Third parties may not collect a SA passport on someone’s behalf. It is also not possible to courier a passport overseas to an applicant. The SA authorities introduced this rule in 2022 to combat fraud on SA passports.

For minor children, the parents or guardians who applied for the passport will be the only ones allowed to come and collect the passport. They will have to provide their fingerprints for collection.

How Breytenbachs can help you

If you have any specific questions about SA Citizenship or dual citizenship, please get in touch with us. Note, however, that we cannot help you apply for your SA passport. However, we should be able to advise on SA passport queries.


Please note that the information in this article does not constitute professional advice. It is provided for general information purposes without any warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied.

Please contact us today for further information or applications.

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