Obtaining South African Citizenship by Naturalisation: A Comprehensive Guide

Obtaining South African Citizenship by Naturalisation

If you’ve ever wondered about acquiring South African citizenship through naturalisation, you’ve come to the right place! While there are various ways to obtain South African citizenship, such as through birth or adoption, we will focus exclusively on the naturalisation route.

What is Naturalisation?

Naturalisation occurs when a foreigner comes to South Africa, obtains permanent residence, and, after a specified period, applies for citizenship.

What Are the Qualifications for Citizenship Based on Naturalisation?

The primary requirement is that you must hold a valid permanent residence for more than five years. It’s important to note that there were some contradictions in the old regulations, suggesting a requirement of ten years.

However, this has since been changed, and now the minimum period for permanent residence is five years. Once you have held permanent residence for more than five years, you potentially qualify for citizenship through naturalisation.

Dual Citizenship

The second requirement is that your current nationality permits dual citizenship. The Department of Home Affairs in South Africa requests a letter from your embassy, consulate, or mission confirming that you are allowed to hold a second passport.

The stance on dual nationality varies across countries. Generally, liberal countries like France, Italy, and Great Britain allow dual citizenship, while stricter nations such as Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have more limitations.

It is crucial to consider the stance of your home country on dual passports. Many countries, including the United States and Australia, have more liberal policies on dual citizenship.

Physical Presence Requirements

Additionally, there are physical presence requirements to fulfil. The authorities assess your travel history in the years preceding your application for citizenship. They scrutinise your presence in South Africa during the previous year.

While the exact regulations need verification, it is advisable to avoid any lengthy absences from the country. Although leaving for less than 90 days may not pose a significant issue, it’s essential to be aware of the clear presence requirements leading up to your application for naturalisation.

Spending more than six months outside the country or an entire year on an extended travel plan, student holiday, or language course could potentially impact your eligibility. The South African government wants to ensure that South Africa truly becomes your home, and this requirement seems justified when granting citizenship.

Document Requirements and Processing Times

Apart from the eligibility criteria, there are specific documents you need to prepare. These include your permanent residence certificate, birth certificate, and other standard documents. Obtaining the permanent residence certificate is a crucial step in the process.

Once you have gathered the necessary documents, you can proceed to apply for citizenship at the Department of Home Affairs, specifically the civic matters division.

The processing times for applications vary, but on average, it takes approximately six months. Some individuals have reported similar processing times for their applications. It is important to note that the timeline may vary depending on individual circumstances and the workload of the department.

Citizenship Ceremony

Upon approval of your application and the granting of citizenship, there is typically a ceremonial aspect involved. You will be required to affirm your commitment to the South African constitution, and there will be a formal handover protocol.

This ceremonial component adds a special touch to the naturalisation process, marking the significance of becoming a citizen of South Africa.


Obtaining South African citizenship through naturalisation is a significant process that requires meeting specific requirements and following certain procedures. With a valid permanent residence for more than five years, a nationality that permits dual citizenship, and adherence to physical presence requirements, you may qualify for citizenship through naturalisation.

Written by Andreas Krensel, Managing Owner

Edited by Simon Carletti, PR and Creative Supervisor

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