If I get US citizenship, how does that affect my South African citizenship? Can I have dual citizenship?

There is lot of debate about whether the US allows dual citizenship. Some argue that the renunciation of all foreign allegiances during the US citizenship oath ceremony effectively means you are giving up your previous citizenship when taking the oath. However, as far as I can tell, the US govt. tolerates it. I believe the official position of the US Dept. of State is that they don’t encourage it, but they also don’t go after people who hold another nationality in addition to US citizenship.

From the South African govt’s point of view, yes, you can have dual citizenship, but you have to apply with the South African government to retain your South African citizenship before you start your US citizenship process.

There has been some confusion on exactly what the requirements are from the South African government’s side. This article on the SA Consultate in New York’s website, while attempting to remove all confusion, has led people to believe that, after Sep 2004, there is no further need to apply for any letters from the SA government.

However, the article only addresses one aspect of this issue, namely traveling on a foreign passport. Before 2004, in accordance with Article 9 of South African Citizenship Act of 1995, you had to apply for permission to use the US passport you would be receiving after gaining US citizenship. Article 9 has been repealed in Sep 2004 and you no longer need to apply for permission to use a foreign passport.

Unfortunately the article doesn’t mention that Article 6 of the South African Citizenship Act of 1995 still stands. Article 6 requires that you apply for permission to retain your South African citizenship before you acquire any other citizenship.

To summarize, here’s how to go about getting dual citizenship:

  1. Apply for permission to retain your South African citizenship. Contact your closest SA Embassy or Consulate for details. If you live in Texas, contact the SA Embassy in Washington, D.C.
  2. After receiving your permission letter, go through the US citizenship process.
  3. After getting US citizenship and a US passport, use your South African passport to enter or leave South Africa, and you are free to use your US passport for all other travel.

Please be aware that the information above may change. It is up to you to verify it.


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