Dual Citizens: Good News if You Lost Your South African Citizenship, But…

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“Citizenship is the gateway through which a number of rights in the Constitution can be accessed.  It enables a person to enjoy freedom of movement, freedom of trade, and political representation” (Constitutional Court, quoted in judgment below)

Note: Many South Africans who should be aware of this new development will be overseas and/or may not have heard of the Supreme Court of Appeal decision we discuss below. If you know of any such person, please consider forwarding this to them as soon as possible.

Reportedly, thousands of South Africans have lost their citizenship through applying for citizenship or nationality of another country without first obtaining Ministerial permission to do so.

Most will have done so unknowingly, ignorant of the fact that whilst dual citizenship itself is allowed, our Citizenship Act requires you to get permission beforehand. Only minors (under 18s) and persons acquiring foreign citizenship by marriage were exempt.

The good news is that the SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) has now ordered that –

  1. That provision is inconsistent with the Constitution and is invalid retrospectively; and
  2. Citizens who lost their citizenship by operation of that provision “are deemed not to have lost their citizenship.”
But – the Constitutional Court still has to confirm the invalidity order

The SCA’s order of invalidity has no legal force unless and until confirmed by the Constitutional Court (CC), and there is (at date of writing) no indication of when this will go to the CC for confirmation, whether or not Home Affairs will oppose its confirmation in the CC, and whether or not they will continue to enforce the section in the interim. In the interim, tread very carefully if you are either planning to apply for foreign citizenship/nationality, or if you were deprived of SA citizenship and plan to return to the country in the near future.

Another “but” – never let your SA passport lapse!

That new judgment does not affect in any way the fact that, although you can travel freely around the world on your second passport, you must always enter and depart from South Africa on your valid SA passport.  Keep renewing it!

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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