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There are three ways to acquire South African citizenship: by birth, by descent or by naturalisation. Marrying a South African person does not automatically give you South African citizenship, but it may have some benefits in the application process.
If you weren’t born in South Africa, and do not have parents from South Africa, you have to apply for citizenship through naturalisation. This is a process that involves having a permanent residency permit, which you need to apply for through the Department of Home Affairs. In terms of granting permanent residency permits, emphasis is placed on immigrants who are in a position to make a meaningful contribution to broadening the economic base of South Africa.
Once you have your permanent residency permit, you can apply for citizenship. To apply for South African citizenship through naturalisation, you must have held a permanent residency permit for at least five years. If you are married to a South African person, the number of years reduces, so you must have held a permanent residency permit for two years and been married for two years immediately before your application (but after you received your permanent resident status).
You could lose your South African citizenship by naturalisation if you provide false information about yourself, hide important information relating to your application, get your naturalisation fraudulently, or are sentenced to jail for 12 months for an offence in another country that would also have been an offence in South Africa.
It is possible to apply for a spousal visa, but this is not the same as getting citizenship and does not give you the same rights.
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* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 17 February 2022
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