• Kianusch Ayazi, LL.B.

How to obtain German-South African dual citizenship

Once you fulfill the requirements for naturalisation in your new home country, you might be facing the tough question whether to keep your original citizenship or to apply for the citizenship of your new home country. In certain cases, however, dual citizenship, may be an option for you.

If you are a South African citizen, you will have to first apply for a permission to retain South African citizenship before becoming naturalised in another country. This permission is relatively easy to obtain upon application with the Department of Home Affairs. What many people do not know: South African citizenship law pursues a very liberal approach towards multiple citizenship. Yet, if you become naturalised in another country without previously obtaining the permission to retain, you will lose your South African citizenship! In the past, many South Africans have unwillingly lost their citizenship as they did not obtain the said permission before becoming naturalised in another country – beware of this pitfall!

Once you have obtained your permission to retain South African citizenship, you may go ahead with your application for naturalisation. Many countries allow multiple citizenship – and Germany is no exception. Whether you are a German citizen wanting to acquire a second citizenship or a South African wanting to benefit from having the German passport as well, you may however face serious challenges in going for your second passport. The reason lies in the restrictive approach of the German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) towards multiple citizenship.

Just like the South African Citizenship Act, German citizenship law (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) requires citizens to apply for a retention permit (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) before acquiring another citizenship. Unlike the South African Citizenship Act, the German Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz makes the granting of the retention permit subject to the applicant having a special interest in becoming a dual citizen which needs to outweigh the public interest to avoid multiple citizenships. South Africans wanting to acquire German citizenship while retaining their original citizenship are subject to a similar requirement.

Due to Germany’s restrictive policy on multiple citizenship, obtaining the permission to have dual citizenship is not granted easily. Do not risk your application being denied – get legal advice.