The implications of retaining or losing SA citizenship

By Marisa Jacobs, director, Xpatweb.

Many South Africans have resorted to finding work in other countries. While the motivation behind their decisions can vary, there is no denying that they will face a mountain of paperwork or be bombarded with terms that are alien to them.

One of the more prominent hurdles to overcome, is deciding whether to retain SA Citizenship, apply for dual citizenship, do a physical emigration or just a financial emigration. Here is a quick look at the differences.

What is Dual Citizenship?

Dual citizenship is the right to become a citizen of more than one country. It sounds fairly straight-forward, but South Africans need to apply to keep their citizenship. Many first world countries no longer allow individuals to keep dual citizenship with other countries.

Countries like Singapore, China, Japan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have become firm favourites with South Africans looking to earn a foreign income. However, none of these countries make allowance for dual citizenship.

While the act of having dual nationality can hold many rewards, it can also create a tax maze and have other, more complex, implications to consider.

Can I Lose My Citizenship?

While South Africa allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship, it’s important to understand the requirements and the correct way of applying for it. For instance, you must first obtain permission to keep your SA citizenship before applying for foreign citizenship, or else you will automatically lose it.

This section of the Citizenship Act is currently being put to task because it is believed to be unconstitutional. Whether this is true or not, thousands of South Africans lose their citizenship every year without being made aware of it.

If you have lost your citizenship, it is usually a complicated and expensive process to get it back again. One of the ways to reclaiming or resuming your citizenship, is that you will be required to move back to South Africa on a permanent basis. This can be a massive setback for professionals who was under the impression that they have dual citizenship.

Physical and Financial Emigration

Emigration is the act of moving away from a country, but few people understand that Physical Emigration and Financial Emigration are two entirely separate issues, or that you can do one without necessarily having to do the other.

What is Physical Emigration?

Physical emigration is more than just packing your bags, jumping on the first flight and leaving South Africa. It’s a formal process, done through the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to obtain citizenship in another country. The application process can be daunting for some, which results in many people not properly submitting their applications.

How can we help?

We understand how overwhelming or demanding it can be to work abroad. Completing paperwork and submitting applications, is probably the furthest thing from your mind. At Xpatweb we facilitate the physical emigration and work permit processes. It is our goal to take this time-consuming burden off your hands.

What is Financial Emigration?

Financial emigration is the process of cutting financial ties with South Africa. This means that, for exchange control purposes, the South African Revenue Services (SARS) changes your residency status from resident to non-resident. Because SARS requires a tax clearance certificate before considering financial emigration, it is wise to consult a specialist who can help you with this procedure.

By doing a financial emigration, you do not alter your status as a South African citizen. You retain your passport and your citizenship until you have done a physical emigration process through the DHA.

How can we help?

Our service offering includes extensive expat tax assistance, work visa services and international travel permit applications. More often than not, complications hinder the financial emigration process. We are there to help expats with all their emigration woes.

Regardless of what your needs might be, or which of the above scenarios would best suit your situation, be sure to partner with someone who knows the legal and technical ins-and-outs of working abroad.


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