South Africa's citizenship according to the law
There are three ways in which a person can be regarded as a South African citizen:
• by birth
• by descent
• by naturalisation
Citizenship by birth and descent are legal rights for anyone who can prove the facts of birth and parentage.
Citizenship by naturalisation is not a legal right. It can be granted or refused by the Minister of Home Affairs.
Citizenship by birth:
• A person has to prove the place where he or she was born and the date of birth.
• The place must be within South Africa.
• Proving a birth can be very difficult if there is no birth certificate, or if the person was not born in a hospital or clinic. In this case documents that can help are:
• a baptismal certificate which was issued soon after the person was born. Churches usually keep a baptismal record and can issue a duplicate if the original is lost.
• clinic cards or school reports
• an affidavit from the Chief of the area where the child was born, or from another respected person in the community, who has known the family for a long time and knows the child was born there
• an affidavit from the owner of the property where the child was born
• an affidavit from the mother's employer at the time of the birth
• an affidavit from the person's older sister or brother who already has an ID and is accepted as a South African citizen
• affidavits can be made by people who helped the mother at the birth or who were neighbours at the time of the birth. However the Department of Home Affairs is not easily satisfied if the only proof is affidavits so try to find some other kind of documents which can be attached to the affidavits.
One parent is a South African and the other parent is a foreign national:
In terms of the South African Citizenship Act (No. 88 of 1995) a child born in South Africa to parents where one was either a South African citizen or a South African permanent residence holder at the time of the child's birth, and the other parent is a foreign national, will be a South African citizen by birth in the case of births from 6th October 1995 when the Act came into operation. The position before that was governed by the South African Citizenship Act of 1949 which contained a wide range of different requirements over the years. To determine a person's claim to South African Citizenship in respect of births in that era, a person usually needs to complete a BI-529 (Determination of Citizenship Status).
Both parents are foreign nationals:
A child who is born in South Africa, from parents who are foreign nationals, will get the citizenship of their parents. However, at the age of 18 a child who is born in South Africa, where both parents are foreign nationals, can apply for citizenship by birth.
Foreign children who are born in South Africa and legally adopted by a South African citizen are governed in terms of the Children's Act of 38 of 2005 and their birth is registered in South Africa. This means they will have citizenship of South Africa by birth.
Citizenship by descent (not born in South Africa):
This makes provision for South African citizenship for children born outside South Africa.
If one of the child's parents is a South African citizen the child has a right to South African citizenship IF that parent registers the birth at the nearest South African embassy or consulate, or sends the proof of the birth to the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria.
Adoption of child born outside of South Africa:
The Children's Act makes provision for people to adopt, and children who are legally adopted by a South African citizen, will qualify for citizenship through descent.
Remember that citizenship by birth or descent can also be given to children who are legally adopted. They become the 'own' child of the new parents and the rules about their citizenship are the same as for children born to their natural parents. BUT the adoption must be a legal one and agreed to by a court. If children are born to foreign nationals and are legally adopted by a South African citizen the child would be granted citizenship.
Citizenship by naturalisation:
Naturalisation is the granting of citizenship to someone who has come to South Africa from abroad and stayed in this county for some time.
If a person is a citizen of another country but wants South African citizenship she or he can apply to the Minister of Home Affairs for Citizenship. According to the Eighth Amendment Act of the Regulations in terms of the South African Citizenship Act (1995) that came into operation on 1 April 2003, a fee may be charged for the duplication of the certificate.
These are the conditions that the person must fulfil when applying for citizenship:
• must be over the age of 21
• must have a permanent residence permit to live in South Africa
• must have lived in South Africa as a permanent resident for at least one year's ordinary residence immediately prior to the application for naturalisation
• After acquiring permanent residency have an additional 4 years of physical residence in the country during the 8 years prior to the naturalisation. This does not include the one year mentioned above
• if married to a South African spouse, must have two years of permanent residence and two years of marriage to the South African spouse before submitting the application
• must be able to communicate in one of our official languages
• must be of good character
• must be knowledgeable of responsibilities of being a South African citizen
But this application for citizenship can be refused by the Minister even if the person seems to fulfil all the conditions. It is regarded as a privilege not a right.
Speak to one of our consultants who will guide you through the process of applying for your South African citizenship.
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