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Citizenship by Descent in South Africa

Citizenship by Descent in South Africa

Citizenship by descent in South Africa is possible for those who have at least one parent who is a citizen, or a permanent residence permit holder, as well as in other cases. Applying for this citizenship route is, understandably, subject to clear proof of the family ties under which the applicant requests this status.

If you believe that you can qualify, or if you would like to receive more information about citizenship, our lawyers in South Africa can answer your particular questions.

Foreign nationals who are not interested in applying for citizenship just yet can also reach out to us for details on how they can obtain residency for doing business in the country or for company formation in South Africa.

Conditions for obtaining citizenship by descent in South Africa

Our South African lawyers specializing in immigration and citizenship matters highlight the main requirements that need to be fulfilled by those who apply for citizenship by descent:

  • The applicant’s parents are South African citizens (or at least one parent);
  • The applicant’s parents have a South Africa permanent residence permit;
  • The applicant is adopted by a South African citizen.
 Quick Facts  
 Who can obtain citizenship by descent in South Africa Children born outside South Africa to at least one parent who was a citizen at the time of the child’s birth. 

Citizenship by descent for adopted children  

Yes, when adopted by a South African citizen. 

 Citizenship by descent in case of unmarried parents 

 Possible, if at least one of the parents was a South African citizen at the time of the child’s birth.

  Citizenship by descent through grandparents  No; this is determined through the parent’s nationality (who must be a South African) at the time of the applicant’s birth.
 Conditions for the ancestors 

Must be South African citizens and must have had their birth registered in South Africa. 

 General required documents for citizenship by descent

Proof of ancestry, form registering the applicant’s birth, birth certificate, the parent’s marriage certificate (if this is the case), adoption order, etc. 

Requirements for language knowledge  

Proficiency in one of the country’s languages is required for citizenship applications. 

Means of proving language knowledge  

 Language test

Available exceptions 

English is one of the official languages, therefore, native English speakers can be exempted. Conditions can apply. 

Other requirements  In some cases, proof of the parent’s foreign citizenship is to be provided. 
 Conditions for the submitted documents

Documents need to be translated into English. 

 Apostille requirement

A foreign-issued document that has an apostille is considered legalized, as South Africa signed the Hague Convention. 

 Power of attorney

Can be used in some cases for citizenship by descent applications. Our South African lawyers can give you more details. 

 Situations in which citizenship applications are prohibited

Not specifically provided for, however, applicants must meet all the requirements. 

Dual citizenship  Possible in some cases (and as provided for by the laws in the applicant’s country of origin). 

Foreign nationals who wish to apply for citizenship by descent in South Africa will not only need to provide satisfactory documentation to prove their family ties with an SA citizen, but they will also need to be mindful of the following:

  • The person who was born outside SA to South African citizens or permanent residence permit holders will need to have had his or her birth registered;
  • A person born in Namibia on or after March 21, 1990, whose mother was a SA citizen at the time of birth;
  • An adopted child, born outside South Africa, whose birth was registered.

Our attorney in South Africa specializing in citizenship and immigration matters can give you details about the requirements listed above.

The following documents are relevant for an application for citizenship by descent in South Africa:

  • Completed application form (different forms apply to particular situations);
  • Original or notarized copy of the birth certificate;
  • Original or notarized copy of the parent’s proof of SA citizenship (birth certificate, ID, valid passport);
  • Original or notarized copy of the parent’s marriage certificate;
  • Adoption order, as needed in the case of children adopted by SA nationals.

Foreign nationals of South African descent who do not know how to commence their citizenship application can rely on our assistance during the process. If you have already been living in South Africa, we can give you details about the fastest route to access this status (either based on your descent, or through naturalization, as applicable).

A key step when applying for citizenship by descent is being able to provide the necessary and satisfactory documents that prove your ancestry. For those of South African descent who are just considering their option to apply for this status, our team can offer an initial consultation during which we will discuss your particular family situation.

South Africa’s population in numbers

Data about South Africa’s population reveals the following:

  • Current population is estimated at 60,762,915;
  • 69.0 % of the population lives in urban areas;
  • Cape Town is the most populous city, with a population of 3,433,441.

Other ways of acquiring citizenship

Not all applicants are able to apply for citizenship by descent in South Africa. For those who do not have SA parents, their option is to seek this status via naturalization.

Among the grounds for immigration to South Africa, we remind applicants that residency applications are favorably considered for those who apply for a permit on other grounds, such as:

  • Having a permanent work offer in the country;
  • Possessing exceptional qualifications or skills;
  • Having the intention to start a business in the country;
  • Are retired persons or financially independent.

Contact us if you want to know more about citizenship by descent in South Africa.