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South Africans in Germany

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German citizenship

Please note: Although the information on this website has been prepared with the utmost care, we cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein. Always refer to the official websites for up to date information.

The new coalition government is in favour of Dual Citizenship, but there are no changes in the laws yet. We will update this page as soon as the law has changed. Here is a link to the proposed changes (in German)

There has been a lot of discussion around the issue of retaining your South African citizenship.
The basic rule is that an adult South African citizen who intends to apply for foreign citizenship, but who does not want to lose his/ her South African citizenship, must first apply for the retention of South African citizenship, which must be done and be approved before acquisition of the other citizenship. This is applicable when the country where you apply for citizenship, allows dual citizenship.
Even though South Africa allows dual citizenship, Germany does not allow Dual Citizenship for South Africans, which means you will have to renounce your South African citizenship.
This is governed by Section 12 of the Nationality act. This act also explains the exceptions, but they generally do not apply to South Africans.
“One aim of German nationality law is to avoid creating multiple nationalities through naturalisation as far as possible. However, there are exceptions for cases of special hardship.”

Some political parties are actively fighting against the rule that you have to apply for retention of your South African citizenship, again this has no relevance in Germany as they do not allow dual citizenship. You do however never lose your right of residence in South Africa, and if you move back to South Africa, you can reapply for your South African citizenship. More information is available on the South African Government Gazette on citizenship

You can obtain German citizenship through:

  • Decent/Birth – See Section 4 of the Nationality act
  • By Declaration  – See section 5 of the Nationality act 
  • Naturalisation (incl spouses) – See Sections 8 to 16, 40b and 40c of the Nationality act
  • Adoption – See section 6 of the Nationality act
  • by issuance of the certificate – See section 15(1) or (2) of the Federal Expellees Act


“To be eligible for naturalisation, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possess the appropriate residence permit.
Foreigners who have successfully completed an integration course are eligible for naturalisation after seven years.
Persons wishing to become naturalized citizens must also declare their allegiance to our constitution and have a sufficient command of the German language.
Knowledge of German is an essential prerequisite for integration into our society.
Candidates for naturalisation must be familiar with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany (naturalisation test) and be able to support themselves without recourse to social assistance, unless this is due to circumstances beyond their control; nor can they have committed any serious criminal offences.
In addition, they must give up their previous citizenship. In certain cases or for certain groups of persons, however, multiple nationality may be considered.”
Read more on the BMI website 

Foreign parents

Children born in Germany after Dec. 31, 1999 to foreign parents who were legal residents of Germany for at least eight years, acquire German citizenship too.
However, between the age of 18 and 23 they will have to decide whether to keep German citizenship or the citizenship of their parents.

Also important to note:

  • As a rule, children born to a German and a non-German parent, or to parents with dual nationality, acquire the nationalities of both parents at birth, according to the principle of descent. See Section 26 of the Nationality Act

Two sections in the South African Citizenship Act is of importance

Section 10 –  Deprivation of citizenship in case of children

Whenever the responsible parent of a minor has in terms of the provisions of section 6 or 8 ceased to be a South African citizen, the Minister may, with due regard to the provisions of the Children’s Act, order that such minor, if he or she was born outside the Republic and is under the age of 18 years, shall cease to be a South African citizen.

Section 13 – Resumption of South African citizenship

(2) A minor who has in terms of section 10 or a provision in any of the laws referred to in Schedule 2 ceased to be a South African citizen and who is resident in the Republic or has returned to the Republic for permanent residence therein, may at any time after attaining the age of 18 years make a declaration in the prescribed form stating that he or she wishes to resume South African citizenship, and if the Minister deems it fit, he or she may order that such a declaration be registered, and upon registration thereof, such person shall resume his or her former South African citizenship.

Infromation on the web

Legal basis

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