Dual Citizenship – SA/USA

Many South Africans that come to the US obtain green cards at some point, and after a period of time, usually 5 years, they are eligible for US citizenship.

Then the questions arise: Should we give up our South African citizenship? Can we even be dual citizens of South Africa and the US? What are the implications of this? What are the requirements for obtaining dual citizenship? (There was some confusion about this last one!)

I will attempt to answer those questions here…

Before I continue, a disclaimer: I am NOT an immigration lawyer, so please don’t consider this to be legal advice. I am merely someone who has had to consider these issues myself. It is up to you to verify the current accuracy of this information. With that said, let’s continue…

Can I be a Dual Citizen of South Africa & the USA?

The short answer is “yes”.

South Africa allows its citizens to take on the nationality of another country without losing South African citizenship, but you have to apply to retain your SA citizenship before taking on US citizenship.

The US position is slightly less clear-cut. During the Oath Ceremony for US citizenship, you will state that you “renounce all foreign allegiances.” Some argue that this means that you are giving up your South African citizenship, but two things are important here: (1) The US Justice Dept has officially stated that it “tolerates” dual citizenship and has never gone after people who have not officially given up their original citizenship. (2) You do not lose your South African citizenship unless you officially renounce it by following the procedures laid out by the South African government.

Should I give up my South African citizenship?

That is entirely up to you. Some people retain their South African citizenship for sentimental reasons, and others do so for their own practical reasons. Others give it up in the knowledge that they get it back later if they choose to. (The South African government’s current requirement for regaining citizenship is that you move back permanently to South Africa.)

What are the implications of dual SA/USA citizenship?

If you are a dual citizen, the South African government requires that you enter and leave South Africa on your South African passport, and you may use your US passport for all other travel.

This means that when you go to South Africa for a visit, you are entering South Africa as a South African.

Should anything happen to you while you are in South Africa that you want the US to help you with, like somehow getting arrested, the US will probably not be able to help you because the South African government will have the right to insist that it is an issue between itself and one of its own citizens, and that the US has to butt out.

Also, if you own a firearm here in the US, you will not be able to take it along with you on a trip to South Africa (e.g. a hunting trip) because, as a South African, you are trying to take an unlicensed firearm into the country.

Those are the only issues that I am aware of.

What is the process for obtaining dual citizenship?

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Apply with the South African government to retain your South African citizenship. Contact your closest SA consulate or embassy for details. If you live in Texas, contact the SA Embassy in Washington DC.
  2. After receiving the permission letter back from the SA government, apply for US citizenship and complete that process.
  3. Use your SA passport for all travel to South Africa, and your US passport for all other travel.

That’s process in a nutshell.

What was the confusion all about?

It was all caused by changes in the South African Citizenship Act of 1995.

Article 6 of the Act states that you have to apply for permission to retain your SA citizenship when obtaining other citizenship. Article 9 of the Act stated that you had to apply for permission to use the passport of a foreign country (as you would be doing after obtaining US citizenship).

Then, in Sep 2004, Article 9 was repealed. Many people thought that Article 6 was also repealed, when in fact, it was not. People thought they could become US citizens without having to deal with the SA government at all. Some people inadvertently lost their SA citizenship as a result of this!

So don’t forget to first obtain permission to retain your SA citizenship from the SA government before applying for US citizenship!

I hope you find this information useful. Remember, things change from time to time, and what I say here today may not be true tomorrow, so check your information as you go along. If you find any additional useful information, please post it below.

Please share this information...
  • What if you did not know you had to apply with the SA government BEFORE becoming a US citizen? Do you still have to apply in SA then? My doctor asked me this question two days ago as he is in this position. Thanks for this helpful information.

    • My kids were born in the US and have US passports. But both parents being South African, we also registered their births in South Africa. Tried to apply for their SA ID’s many years ago, but the Dept Home Aff’s lost the paperwork. My son just turned 18 and will be travelling to South Africa for vacation. Can he now enter on his US passport and then while in SA, apply for his green ID and subsequently his SA passport…. or will he encounter issues upon entering SA if he is entering on his US passport while he does not have SA documents yet other than the birth certificate issued by Home Affairs originally. He obtained US citizenship first. As I understand there is only an issue if you obtain foreign citiz after being SA?? Any issues foreseen?

  • Marie, my non-lawyer opinion is this: If the SA government doesn’t know that your doctor has US citizenship, his SA citizenship will be intact. If he wants to retain his SA citizenship and not risk losing it later if SA finds out he has US citizenship, he might want to apply for permission to retain his SA citizenship. On the application form he’ll likely have to state when he intends to obtain US citizenship and he might have to be a little “creative” with his answer.

    The other option is for you or someone else (not the doctor) to pose the question to the SA embassy. If they’re willing to accommodate him and knowingly let him apply “after the fact”, then great. If they take a “rules is rules” attitude, then fall back to option 1.

  • Great article, John! I learnt a few things here. I didn’t know they’d changed the law.

    Love your non-lawyer advice ; ) I agree. I’d ask at anonymously at the consulate before deciding what to do. That is usually my modus operandi.

  • Hi!. Apart from specifics regarding SA citizenship, many immigrants to the U.S. are eligible for the naturalization process. But, first an individual must be a Lawful Permanent Resident. Here are the requirements for naturalization:

    He or she must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing for citizenship.

    An individual must reside in the United States for a continuous period prior to the filing of the naturalization application. If the applicant is not married to an American citizen he or she must live in the U.S. for a continuous period of five years after lawful admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident. If an individual is married to a U.S. citizen, he or she must live in the United States for a continuous period of three years following lawful admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident. In the latter case, the individual must be married to and reside with the spouse citizen for three years before the applicant’s exam date and the spouse must have been a U.S. citizen during that entire time.

    Residence is required for three months immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application. Continuous residence in the United States is also required from the date of filing until actual admission to citizenship.

    The applicant must have an ability to read, write and speak ordinary English. This is ability is determined through oral and written tests administered by an immigration examiner during the naturalization interview. There are some exemptions to the language requirement; consult our attorneys for more details on possible waivers.

    The applicant must have both knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government. This ability is determined by administration of a multiple choice test. Generally, even those person who are exempt from English requirement must still meet this requirement.

    I hope this information proves useful!

  • I lost my South African citizenship in the early 90's when I was a minor (we became US citizens). I have an interest in regaining it. Would the South African gov't consider the fact that I lost my citizenship without my consent if I was to apply?

    • I am not sure whether the fact that you lost your citizenship without your consent will be regarded as a factor to consider, but I can tell you this: As far as I know, the SA government will give you citizenship back if you are entitled to it, and you are, but I believe there is one condition… you have to move back to South Africa to get it. 🙁

    • You shouldn’t have lost it since you were a minor and if it was before 1995, then you could also reinstate it.

  • Thanks so much for this helpful information. Could you please help me with the following question. I am South African with a baby who's father is American. We got married a week ago and we now want to apply for our son's American passport. I do not want him to loose his South African citizinship. I read somewhere that applicants who are minors under the age of 21 do not need to apply for retention of SA citizenship as they do not loose it automatically by acquiring foreign citizenship. Is this true or am i getting the incorrect information?

    • Don’t worry! Your child will remain a dual citizen since he was under 18 when he got it. Everything should be fine and he’ll keep it as long as he doesn’t take up another citizenship after he turns 18.

  • I don't believe you have lost your SA citizenship if you were a minor during the time. South African citizens under the age of eighteen (18) years are exempt as long as they acquire the foreign citizenship before their eighteenth (18th) birthday. They automatically retain their South African citizenship for life unless; once they have reached the age of eighteen (18) years and they then wish to acquire a further foreign citizenship. They will then have to apply for prior permission to retain their South African citizenship – failing to do so, they will automatically lose their South African citizenship. (http://www.sahc.org.au/citizenship/Dual_Citizensh

    Hope this helps

  • I have been a US Citizen since the late 80's and was told I could not get dual Citizenship at the time. I would like to get dual Citizenship, but it appears it is too late. If I were to go back to South Africa for an extended period of time would I lose any benefits that I have here e.g Disability for one and my ex husbands Social Security?

    • You can have it reinstated since it was before 1995…just visit the website and fill out the forms. You don’t need to move back.

    • They ask for the letter when you renew your passport. That’s why you need the letter with permission otherwise they’ll just revoke your citizenship since you don’t have permission or you weren’t under 18 when you got the other citizenship.

  • What is the process to renew one’s South African passport when one’s has the SA permission letter and a US passport? What should you enter as your citizenship? Anything else to note when applying for a SA passport renewal?

  • Has anyone (like Marie Hansell) above had a similar issue and been able to get the permission of the
    SA government after already acquiring foreign citizenship. I see Ruth's response and appreciate it but I think it's unfair for someone like me who was unaware of that law to lose my citizenship but alas in accordance with the law I would like to get this resolved. When I applied for my childrens birth registrations, to get them SA ID numbers, the process took a year and after all that time, they claimed to have lost my paperwork…would it be ok to use that as a reason if found that I have lost my citizenship.

  • What if you have dual citizenship but want to enter on your US passport and not your SA passport as you are married, your name has changed and your infant travelling with you is only on a US passport? If I had to travel on a SA passport I would have to apply for one, they will not honor my new married name and then the name on your air ticket has to match that on your passport, so then I face problems coming back into the US on my US passport where my name won't match that on my airline ticket…

    • Hi Jay, I've just read your post from over 2 years ago. I was wondering if you ever found an answer to your question. I'm in a similar position – I am currently living in Australia and my visa is in my Netherlands passport. I need to book my ticket to Australia in my maiden name as the Dutch don't change your surname when you marry. However, my South African passport is in my married name so I'm going to have problems trying to return to Australia with a boarding pass and passport in different names. Regards, Kerry

      • Just enter and exit SA on your SA passport and enter and exit Australia with your Nederlands passport. There shouldn’t be an issue…

  • What will happen if you simply do not inform the SA government of your second citizenship. How can they prove if you have obtained a second citizenship? Can you not simply deny it if asked? Filling out forms simply puts a RED FLAG next to your name and gives them an opportunity to give you trouble. Simply travel in and out to SA with SA passport and admit nothing. Any comments??

    • Billy, I agree that it may be difficult for the SA govt to detect if you got US citizenship, but I don't think it is necessarily impossible. One slip-up somewhere, and they may find out. Then, if it matters to you to keep your SA citizenship, you will be in trouble because they will revoke it. If it's important to you to keep your SA citizenship, I think it's just safer to follow their requirements, even if it is a pain.

      • I agree. Plus, they want the retention letter when you renew your passport. It’s actually easy to get the letter and the. You won’t have issues renewing your passport.

  • How do i go about getting my kids dual citizenship. My 2 older ones were born in SA but got american birth certificates at the USA embassy and my little one is born here. I am still a SA citizen with a USA greencard. I am looking into getting dual citizenship for all of us.

    • Nadine, for your little one, you need to register his/her birth with South Africa. That will be step 1 in obtaining SA citizenship for him/her. About the rest of the process, you need to ask the SA Embassy. I imagine you will have to apply for a SA birth certificate, and then for a SA passport. About your other kids, I'm not sure if getting US-issued birth certificates means they now have US citizenship. If not, as I suspect, then they will automatically get US citizenship when you get it. Before you start your US naturalization process, but sure to apply with SA for retention of your SA citizenship.

  • hi, i live in south africa but was born us. recently got my us passport. but i didnt inform the sa gov before hand. does that mean that i have lost my sa citizenship?

    • Nadia, if you were born in the US, then you already had US citizenship from birth, right? Did you then acquire South African citizenship later? Assuming that you did acquire SA citizenship later, the way I think about this is that from the South African point of view, you did not acquire the citizenship of another country after becoming a South African citizen. You already had US citizenship at the time. In such a case, you should be OK.

  • From what I understand, I have lost my SA citizenship, so can I travel to SA using my foreign passport? Will I be in trouble with SA governmnet for NOT having retained my SA citizenship?

    • Cher, I don't think you can get in trouble. It's your decision whether you keep your SA citizenship or not. You simply use your foreign passport and that's that.

  • One thing to keep in mind in this ever changing and dangerous world is your personal safety. If I got into trouble in South Africa for whatever reason, such as being kidnapped for a ransom as recently happened in Egypt, I would like to know, that as a US citizen I have that protection. Keeping my South African passport is like living in the past to me. I live in the present and look to the future. Africa and South Africa will never be the same and if it was we would not be loving here in this wonderful country and State. Just my thoughts. Great article and information though.

    • Ian, you make a good point and definitely something that prospective dual-citizens should keep in mind. With your Egypt-example, you would be OK because you would've entered Egypt on your US passport, i.e. as an American, and as such, you would be entitled to assistance from the US government. What people need to keep in mind is that SA/USA dual-citizens are required to enter South Africa on their SA passport. I they then get in trouble in SA, they would not be entitled to US protection because they would be in South Africa as South Africans.

  • Great article – What is the correct protocol at the border crossing? Do you need to request a stamp for your US passport? I know SA requires you to enter and exit on your SA passport, when you get back to the US though, will US immigration be looking for an SA stamp or do they even care?

    • Rodger, no, on your way back to the US, the US passport control officials don't even ask for your SA passport. You simply hand them your US passport and they put an entry stamp in it.

  • Yes question is how would they know you got foreign passport? is there any communication between usa and sa goverments?

  • Has anyone visited SA after having become a US citizen in the 70’s. At that time no payment was required to leave the country.Has anyone experienced trouble leaving SA
    after a visit as passport shows Place of Birth being SA?

    • You can still keep SA citizenship as you got it before 1995, but if you don’t want it then explain your situation; they’ll let you through.

  • I never knew of this requirement: ‘Apply with the South African government to retain your South African citizenship’. I have been a naturalized US citizen since 2008 and was thinking about renewing my South African passport because I want to buy a property in Cape Town and have a bank account there. I hope someone reads this to advise me. Can I just apply for a new SA passport and not even mention my American citizenship? From what I heard, this division is a mess and almost anyone can become a south African citizen. I only need it for tax reasons. Also, it will be impossible for me to spend a year in SA since I have my son in school here.

    • Shirley, according to how I understand it, I think that you technically would have lost your SA citizenship. Unfortunately, many people have run into that one over the years. I can’t tell you to not mention your US citizenship, but if the question isn’t asked at all, I don’t know if you’re under an obligation to squeeze it in somewhere.

      • John, thank you for reply.
        I have one question and that is: Can I travel back and forth between SA and USA during that one year to regain my SA citizenship ? I do not mind spending a year on and off in SA because my son is going to study at Stellenbosch University, my alma mater, for a year. I called the SA consulate and got hold of someone after 30 tries who could confirm that I had lost my SA citizenship but could not answer the travel part. Apparently you have to be on SA soil to get than answer. Really?? Also I have a FB friend from Soweto who told me it is ridiculous because anyone can buy SA citizenship for $1k. Not that I intend buying something which is my birth right.

        • Shirley, the last information that I saw was that you can get your SA citizenship back, but only if you move back to SA with the intention of living there again. I saw this about 5 years ago and I’m not sure if that requirement has been eased since then.

  • Hi Guys.

    Does anyone know how i can get my British citizenship ?
    My grandfather was born in Scotland and i was born in SA.
    We thinking of moving to US or Australia. How do i go about that?

    Any advice here?

    Kind Regards:

    • Hi Lee-Ann. Sorry for the long delay in responding. You should contact your nearest British Embassy with that question. You might also be able to get the answer on their website. Good luck!

  • Hi John,

    Where can I found out how I can start the process of applying e.g. what I need to qualify etc.

    Thanks for all the help!

  • I live in South Africa and am about to renounce my South African citizenship completely because the daily FEAR of being attacked also of the state of the country it’s laws and the lack of assistance for our minority group. I need to apply to the USA for citizenship. Do I have to travel to the USA to do so? Please can anyone help us?

    • Leigh, there is no need to renounce your South African citizenship. It’s not going to change anything, and it’s not going to protect you against attacks. Unless you have recent ancestral connections to another country, getting the citizenship of another country is not simply a matter of applying for it. Typically, you first need to get a visa that allows you to go live and work in the foreign country. Then, after living there for a few years, you may be able to apply for citizenship of that country. Visit our Immigration section for more information.

  • Hi there John

    I trust that you are well. My daughter is South African and she is pregnant from a US citizen. They both work and live in Thailand and she has a work permit. The baby will be born in Thailand this December. Do you know the process of registration of birth at the embassies? Does baby have to be registered at both embassies? Would the baby acquire US and SA citizenship by birthright?

    • Hi Stacey. I am well, thanks. I hope you are too.

      You would have to register the baby with both countries if you want the baby to have citizenship of both countries. It looks like you’ll also have to visit the two Embassies to get it done. Here is a link to the US Embassy in Bangkok that describes the process: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/service/birth-of-a-u.s.-citizen-in-thailand.html. Here is a link to the SA Embassy in Bangkok that describes the SA process: http://www.dirco.gov.za/bangkok/consular.html

      You might have to do the South African registration first. Then get the letter from the SA govt that gives baby permission to obtain the citizenship of another country. (Many people have lost their SA citizenship when they obtained US citizenship without first getting the “permission to obtain foreign citizenship” letter from the SA govt.) Then register the birth with the US govt and obtain the US citizenship.

      I hope this helps you.

  • Hi there.
    I’m a South African, just got my permanent resident card (green card) for ten years. My husband wants me to file for him a Dual Citizenship. Is this something we can do now or should I wait till I apply for my US citizenship first?

    • After obtaining your green card, you first need to build up 5 years’ residency (living in the US), before you can apply for US citizenship. If you want dual citizenship (SA/USA), before applying for your US citizenship, you first need to apply with the SA govt for retention of your SA citizenship when you acquire US citizenship. (If you skip that step, you automatically lose you SA citizenship when you get US citizenship.) So, I would say to wait until you have about 4 years 9 months US residency time built up. Then apply with the SA govt for retention of your SA citizenship. Once you have that letter from the SA govt, apply for your US citizenship.

      • Thank you so much for getting back so quick.
        Does this mean I can’t apply for my husband who is a US citizin a dual citizinship? I have to get mine first before filling for him?

        • If your husband is a South African who already obtained US citizenship, and he did not apply for the retention of his SA citizenship before applying for US citizenship, then, in the eyes of the South African government, your husband automatically lost his South African citizenship when he obtained US citizenship. So there is no dual citizenship to apply for at this stage. He only has US citizenship. Unfortunately, many people have been caught by this one. He can regain his SA citizenship, but the requirement is that moves back to SA permanently to do so.

  • Hi there,
    Thank you for all your good information. My question is little bit different since I optain my South Africa citizen by naturalization. Now I want to apply US citizen. So can I still apply to retain my SA citizenship before taking on US citizenship.
    Thank you.

    • Adam, you would have to check the SA Citizenship Act to be 100% sure, but it is my opinion that once you receive your SA citizenship by naturalization, you have all of the rights that a SA citizen would have that obtained it by birth or marriage. Therefore, I would think that you would also be able to apply for the retention of your SA citizenship when taking on US citizenship. Just be sure to do that before applying for your US citizenship.

  • Just a quick question, do first get my work permit and green card before applying for retention of citizenship? I did go to the SA embassy and the girl informed me that I first need my green cards before I apply for retention. I would like to confirm that this is correct before I make a mistake in which I lose my SA citizenship.

    • The process is work visa -> green card -> US citizenship. You can only apply for US citizenship after obtaining your Green Card. You have to apply for retention of your SA citizenship before applying for US citizenship.

  • Hi John, my family and I are SA citizens, we live in the US and are now able to apply for naturalized US citizenship. We are current SA passport holders and I am in the process of filling out the application for retention of our SA citizenship. The SA consulate website says we need this as part of our permission pack: “Notarized letter confirming that the foreign citizenship has not been taken up and proof of current status in foreign country of which citizenship will be acquired.”
    Where do I ask for this letter on the US Citizenship & Immigration services website, do you know? Do I need to contact them directly? I cannot find anything about this in any of the online forums so I’m wondering if it is still necessary.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Lesley. I don’t know that if the US CIS will provide a letter that confirms that you are not a US citizens. Maybe this is just a sworn & notarized statement from yourself that you have not taken up US citizenship, along with a notarized copy of your green card, as proof of your current status. I think you may need to call the SA Embassy in DC to ask them if such a notarized letter from you will be good.

      • Thank you John! That’s what I was thinking would work but needed a confirmation. Your prompt response is much appreciated.

  • Our children with foreign passports but born in SA, aged 16 & 17 will be returning ALONE to SA for studies shortly. We have not returned to SA for 9 years and never planned to, hence the family passports were not renewed. I understand that a set of documents including parental consent and unabridged birth certificates (will be SA) must be supplied on their entry.
    The concern is that due to requirements for traveling minors the two boys will either have a problem on entry to SA due to a combination of; birth registration in SA, traveling on foreign passports and foreign passport identification of parents who are probably no longer citizens by default. Furthermore, we are intending that they apply for their new SA passports after arriving but due to their birth dates after 1995 would they be refused the option to apply ?

    Your clarification and advice would be appreciated ?

    • Trevor, unless a lawyer who is familiar with these issues responds, I would recommend that you talk to an official at the SA Embassy in DC. Your situation is a little more complicated than what I am familiar with, and they have changed the birth certificate requirements a couple of times lately.

    • I would contact the embassy to find out what to do birth certificate wise, but I’d apply for SA passports and ID Documents before they leave as they might have issues at the border when they’re asked why they are visiting. Did you apply for an letter of retention before becoming a US citizen? He kids should still be dual citizens since they were under 18 when they got dual, but you might’ve lost it. I’d check with the embassy on all of this. Good luck getting all he documents in order!

  • Thanks for the help- how long does it take for the embassy to get back you with the permission letter and what is the best way to contact the embassy?

    Thank you

    • You can call the Embassy to ensure that you’re completing the correct steps. They can send forms to you, but you can also download the necessary forms from the website of the SA Consulate in New York. I don’t quite remember the turnaround time for getting the letter, but somehow ±3 months is coming to mind.

  • Hi I’m 18 years old and i would love to move to the US after i complete my degree, so my question is how do i go about applying for a job in the US or will i be able to move without having a job.

    • Rian, you will need to find a job that sponsors a H1-B work visa. You won’t be able to move to the US without having a job, unless you win in the Green Card lottery.

  • Hi John I went to homeaffairs to apply for the retention letter from the South African Goverment as i may apply for citizenship /green card through my sister who is an American Citizen ,However they told me that the procedure change and that i must get a letter from the American Consulate that must be attach to my application for retention as the United States do not allow dual citizenship to people form certain countries ,Home affairs could not give me a copy of the letter i need from the American Consulate and when i called the consulate call centre they could not help me .I am in dire straits .My mom got a copy from a lady that worked at home affairs last year and i took a photo of the letter but lost it .My ,mom got her retention ,Apparently it is only for American Dual citizenship one need this letter .Could you assist me please

    • Hi Johanna. I think the letter they are talking about is a letter confirming that you have not taken up foreign citizenship before applying for retention of your SA citizenship, as laid out here. It doesn’t specifically say that the letter must come from the US govt. You may want to ask this question on a Facebook group, like South Africans in Austin (Texas) or South Africans in Texas. There may be someone who went through that process recently. This letter was not a requirement when we went through the process.

  • I never applied for dual citizenship when I became a citizen of the US. If I kept my SA citizenship I would qualify for an ancestral Visa to the UK. Any suggestions?

    • Glenda, do your rights to the ancestral visa lie in your SA citizenship or with family ties to the UK? If it lies with family ties to the UK, then I would think that the loss of your SA citizenship doesn’t matter. If it lies in your SA citizenship, then I’m wondering why other South Africans don’t also have those rights.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by family ties. Surely it is our birthright if we were born in South African that we are South African. So many people don’t know about applying for dual citizenship. I never gave up my South African Citizenship. .

        • I was just trying to figure out how you would have ancestral ties to the UK. For instance, elements of my family on both my Mom and Dad’s side, came from England in the early 1800s, yet I don’t think I have ancestral rights to the UK anymore (but I could be wrong about that). You are right that lots of people don’t know that you have to apply to retain your SA citizenship before obtaining another citizenship. The SA govt says that doesn’t matter, and that you lose it automatically (if they find out about your foreign citizenship). That said, you can get your SA citizenship back if you decide to move back to SA.

  • John, I recently became a US citizen, I have a UK citizenship by birth and a South African By Naturalization. I did not apply for permission for the USA citizenship but I did apply for dual citizenship for the UK one in the late nineties, would this make any difference. My other question would be how does the South African Govt know I have a USA citizenship?

    • Hi Tomas. I believe you need to obtain permission from the SA govt every time you acquire another citizenship, i.e. I don’t think you can do it once and it then covers all subsequent events. You may want to discreetly check with a SA Home Affairs office to verify. I don’t think any government informs another government when one of their citizens acquires another citizenship. So the only way they’ll know is if you declare it when you, for example, renew your SA passport.

  • My husband was born in SA however also had dual citizenship with United Kingdom. Now married 6 years he has become a US citizen and let his SA passport expire . He wants to let go of his SA citizenship anyway. Therefore has UK and US passport. My question is can he go back to visit family in SA with his US passport ? Or does he need a letter of renunciation?

    • Hi Erica. Did your husband apply for the retention of his SA citizenship at any point when he obtained the US citizenship? If not, SA law says that he automatically lost his SA citizenship when obtaining the US citizenship. So I think he can just use his US passport to enter and leave SA. I doubt that there is any connection between his old SA passport and his new US passport, so I doubt that SA passport officials would see a connection.

    • Jasjit, we’re focused on obtaining US citizenship when already a SA citizen. I suggest that you contact South Africa’s Dept. of Home Affairs for information on becoming a South African citizen.

  • I was born in the USA in ’74 and my parents came back to RSA in the’ 80s when I was 8 years old. I grew up in SA, got an SA ID book when I turned 18, have an SA passport, and as far as I’m concerned I’m South African.
    However, as a US born citizen do I still have to declare/apply for dual citizenship or is it just assumed based on my birth country?
    I currently live and work in the USA but my SA passport is set to expire in July 2019. Will I have problems exiting SA if I travel to SA in May, with the intent on returning to USA in 2 weeks? I heard I needed 6 months on my passport.

    • Wow, yours is an interesting situation. I’ll give you my opinion, but do understand that I’m not an immigration expert.

      If you were born in the US, you’re a US citizen. Do you have a US passport? If not, apply for one now. That way you can take it along with you to SA and use it to return to the US after your trip. You will also have to renew your SA passport soon. Since you’re traveling in May, you may want to wait until your return from SA renew it because it takes several months. To renew it, you’ll have to work through the SA embassy here in the US.

      About the dual-citizenship, I’m not sure if the dual-citizenship requirement applies to you. I say that because (1) you had US citizenship before you obtained SA citizenship, (2) you didn’t obtain the citizenship of another country after obtaining your SA citizenship, and (3) your two citizenships were in place long before the new law in SA came into effect. You may want to study the SA act to get the answer.

  • Hi I am busy doing my online application for US citizenship. Married to a US citizen 5 years already. I already have the retention letter from the SA Government. When I file my application together with the retention letter to keep my SA citizenship, it got mentioned that I need to submit an affidavit together with my retention letter with my US application. (to verify that I am keeping my SA citizenship etc as I have family and property in SA). I am not using a lawyer to apply for US citizenship. Does anyone have a template example of an affidavit to see what the content should include? and is there anything else that I need to submit with my application for US citizenship? Any support will be much appreciated!

    • Hi Adele. Where did you see it mentioned that you need to submit an affidavit and your retention letter with your US citizenship application? Do you have a link to your source? I completed our US citizenship application and I don’t recall having to submit our SA retention letter with our US citizenship application.

  • Hi John, I have a slightly different question. I obtained US citizenship several years ago after obtaining “approval” by SA to retain SA citizenship. I now have decided to renounce SA citizenship, very seldom travel back to SA and too much of a pain to get new passport when I do travel there. I’ve not found any info on SA embassy or consulates sites regarding renouncing citizenship. Any advice?

  • I have a bit of a potential timing issue. I have a greencard and am eligible to apply for US citizenship. My South African passport had expired and I applied for a renewal about a year ago, but have still not received it. I’ve been holding off on applying for US citizenship until I received it and could apply for the exemption.

    I have to leave the US for over a year starting in a year, so I need to apply for US citizenship now. Currently US citizenship processing time is 1-2 years. Do you think it would be all right for me to apply for US citizenship now, then hopefully my SA passport arrives in the meantime and I can apply for the exemption all before actually being granted US citizenship?

    Furthermore, does anyone know yet what satisfies the requirement of a “Notarized letter confirming that the foreign citizenship has not been taken up and proof of current status in foreign country of which citizenship will be acquired.”?

    Many thanks

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