How To Get South African Citizenship

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South Africa is a beautiful country, full of opportunity and excitement. It’s a hub for expats and digital nomads, and some foreigners even choose to make it their home. To do that, they have to apply for South African citizenship.

But what does the process of citizenship in South Africa look like?

This article lists all of the ways you can get South African citizenship, what you’ll need, and some challenges you may face.

I’ll also talk about the citizenship test and permanent residence versus citizenship.

Why You Want South African Citizenship

If you’re considering getting citizenship, then you’ve already got reasons why you want to do it. But if you’re thinking about whether or not to do it, here are a few reasons why you would want South African citizenship.

Economic opportunities

South Africa is one of the largest economies on the African continent. Because of its infrastructure and strong financial sector, it’s a prime candidate for business growth.

Cost of living

South Africans enjoy a much lower cost of living than many other English speaking countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

You’re part of a beautiful nation

South Africa is a truly beautiful place. To be a part of the rainbow nation is a privilege in itself.

Ways To Get Citizenship

According to the South African Citizenship Act, there are six ways you can apply for South African citizenship.

Each of them has some criteria, and I’ll also tell you the process and what documents you’ll need.

1. Citizenship by birth

This is the easiest one on the list for obvious reasons. Citizenship by birth, also known as “Jus soli” (the right of the soil), generally gives newborns the right to be considered a citizen of the country they’re born in. They qualify for SA citizenship automatically by being born in the country and meeting certain requirements.


To qualify for citizenship by birth, you’ll need to:

  • Born in South Africa
  • Have at least one South African parent
  • Be registered as being born in South Africa within 30 days of birth
  • Be born outside South Africa if your parents are members of the South African government

Required documents

You’ll need a birth certificate and a BI-24 form to be registered on a government database within 30 days of being born. That’s it!

2. Citizenship by descent

Citizenship by descent means claiming citizenship because one or more of your parents or grandparents are South African citizens.


You qualify for citizenship by descent if:

  • You have South African parents
  • One of your parents was a South African citizen at the time of your birth
  • You were born outside of South Africa but were adopted by South African citizens

Required documents

  • A filled DHA-24 form
  • A filled-out BI-529 form
  • An original/notarized copy of your birth certificate
  • Original/notarized copies of your parent’s proof of citizenship
  • An original/notarized copy of your parent’s marriage certificate

3. Citizenship by naturalisation

Naturalisation means you have been granted citizenship because you’ve held a permit for permanent residence in South Africa for some time.


You’d need to have permanent residence in the country for at least five years. You also can’t have been out of the country for more than 90 consecutive days within those five years.

Required documents

  • A filled-out DHA-757, DHA-63, and DHA-529 form
  • Your non-South African citizen identity document
  • Proof of residence permit
  • A police report
  • R300

Your form gets sent directly to the Minister of Home Affairs. They’ll decide whether or not you will receive South African citizenship. This one is tricky because they can deny you citizenship even if you tick all of the boxes.

4. Citizenship by marriage

Citizenship by marriage means you become a South African citizen because your partner has South African citizenship.


To acquire South African citizenship by marriage, you’ll need:

  • To be in a relationship for at least two years before applying for a spousal visa
  • To have been married to your partner for at least five years before applying for citizenship

Required documents

  • A filled-out DHA-947
  • Your original passport
  • Your partner’s identity document
  • A valid marriage certificate
  • A police clearance certificate
  • A medical report
  • A notarized agreement stating you’ve been in a relationship for at least two years before applying for a spousal visa, and at least five years before applying for South African citizenship
  • A notarized copy of your proof of residence

5. Citizenship by adoption

Citizenship by adoption means a child’s birth happened outside of the country but they were adopted by South African citizens.


For citizenship by adoption, the adoptive parents of the foreign child have to be South African national citizens.

Required documents

  • A valid adoption order
  • The parent’s marriage certificate
  • Proof that your parents are South African citizens

It’s not hard to become a citizen through adoption. As with citizenship by birth, children automatically qualify if his or her parents can prove their citizenship status.

6. Citizenship for refugees

People who are recognised as refugees in South Africa automatically get a refugee permit. The permit allows them to stay in the country temporarily. After a period of time, they can apply to become a permanent resident.


  • You’ll have to be in the country for at least 5 years
  • Be recognised as a refugee

Required documents

  • You’ll need a filled-out DHA-757, DHA-63, and DHA-529
  • Your non-South African citizen identity document
  • Proof of residence permit
  • A police report

You should also contact the Department of Home Affairs. Refugees have measures in place that could mean your R300 fee is waived.

The Language Test

South Africa doesn’t have a citizenship test. However, foreign citizens looking for South African citizenship through naturalisation or marriage have to pass a language test.

The language test means they’ll have to show proficiency in one of the 11 national languages (or 12 counting South African Sign Language) before they’re considered South African citizens.

Challenges In The Application Process

There are some challenges you may face when you’re going through the process of turning from a foreign citizen into a South African.

  • The process is lengthy. There’s a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy you have to deal with.
  • The processing times can be lengthy. This period can vary and it’s difficult to know what’s happening, which can be stressful.
  • You may not pass the language test.
  • You may just not get accepted, even if you do meet all the criteria.

While South Africa welcomes people around the world, becoming a South African citizen means you’re contributing to the growth of. If you can’t offer value, you may not be accepted to receive citizenship.

Citizenship vs. Permanent Residency

There’s often confusion between citizenship and permanent residency. After all, if it’s permanent, why aren’t you a citizen?

Here’s a quick rundown so that you know the difference.

  • Applying for passports: Citizens of South Africa can apply for South African passports.
  • Residence: Permanent residents have to live in South Africa. South African citizens, on the other hand, can live anywhere and be welcomed back into South Africa.
  • Job applications: South African citizens often have an easier time applying for jobs in South Africa.
  • Voting: Of course, if you’re not a South African citizen, you also can’t vote.


What are the ways you can lose citizenship in South Africa?

You can lose South African citizenship by:

  • Getting citizenship outside of the country
  • Renouncing your citizenship voluntarily
  • Serving in an army that’s at war with South Africa
  • Using another country’s passport without written permission from the ministry
  • Voting in another country’s election
  • Getting your naturalisation certificate illegally
  • If the Minister of Home Affairs decides it’s in the country’s best interest

How long does it take to get citizenship?

The process of qualifying for citizenship in South Africa takes around 6 months. However, applicants have reported numerous delays in this timeline.

How much does it cost to become a South African citizen?

Applying for citizenship costs around R300, which you will have to pay to your nearest Department of Home Affairs.

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