How South Africans can apply for a second passport

*This content is brought to you by Sable International, specialists in securing secondary residency and citizenship for South Africans. Sable can help relocate yourself and your family, along with your business to the UK.

By Gary Kockott*

Many South Africans are keen to keep their options open when it comes to immigration. Uncertain economic and political times are frequently cited as push factors for many living in South Africa. Traditionally, Australia and the UK have been two of the most popular countries for South African migrants. More recently, thanks to some innovative citizenship-by-investment programmes, South Africans have also begun looking at Portugal as a viable immigration destination.

South African immigration regulations

The United Kingdom

As a South African, it’s a lot easier to immigrate to a country if you have some kind of claim to citizenship of that country. A second citizenship, or nationality, is a particularly prized possession for South Africans and with thousands of families having ties to the UK, it’s no surprise that many want to find out whether they, or their children, can claim British citizenship.

The good news is that there are many routes to claiming British nationality as a South African. There are two key questions you can ask yourself to figure out whether British citizenship is an option for you or your children: Do you have parents born in a different country to you? Did your parents work for the British government?

Do you have parents born in a different country to you?

The British Empire has had a profound effect on how sub-Saharan Africa has developed both politically and socially over the past 100-odd years. Since decolonisation only began in earnest in the 1950s, many people’s parents and grandparents were alive at the tail end of the colonial period and many nationality and citizenship laws still effect their lives. The complex interplay of colonial and UK immigration laws can often give rise to citizenship claims for South Africans.

A good rule of thumb when trying to work out if you have a claim to British citizenship is to ask yourself whether your parents, or grandparents, were born in a country different to you.

To have a claim to British nationality, you don’t necessarily need to have ancestors born in the UK. In some cases, their birth, depending on when it occurred, within a former colony or territory could result in you having a claim to British citizenship.

The British presence was particularly strong in Southern Africa, so if you have a parent or grandparent born in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia or Zimbabwe, while the country was under British rule, you could have a claim to British citizenship.

Did your parents work for the British government?

File photo illustration shows a European Union British Passport on the counter of a cafe in Paris, France, January 23, 2013. Carmakers and soccer chiefs threw their weight behind the campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union June 20, 2016, as opinion polls showing the "Remain" camp gaining ground buoyed shares and sterling three days ahead of the referendum. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon/File Photo
File photo illustration shows a European Union British Passport on the counter of a cafe in Paris, France. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon/File Photo

A more nuanced part of UK immigration law deals with people whose parents or grandparents worked in the service of the British government. This type of employment is referred to as Crown service.

Essentially, if your parent or grandparent worked for the British government in an overseas territory at the time of your birth, you could have a claim to British nationality through them.

There are different rules that apply to births pre- and post-1983 and there is currently a bias toward applicants with grandfathers who were employed in Crown service. Many experts are of the opinion that this distinction will be declared arbitrary in the coming years, which will lead to claims being allowed based on a grandmother’s Crown service.

Some examples of agencies that could qualify as Crown service:

  • British military
  • Overseas Civil Service
  • Colonial Service
  • Diplomatic Corp
  • The Salvation Army
  • The Australia, New Zealand and Malaya Defence Organisation
  • The NAAFI
  • The Red Cross
  • The YMCA and YWCA
  • The Church Army
  • The Seaman’s Missions

Can your children claim British nationality?

If you think your children may qualify for British citizenship through you, your parents (their grandparents) or via birth, then you need to act sooner rather than later.

British immigration law is far more permissive when it comes to children under 18. Once your child turns 18, they may lose several of their routes to claiming British nationality.

This is not to say a claim becomes impossible, but if you are in a position where your child might be eligible for British citizenship, it’s far better to investigate your options before they turn 18.

No claim through ancestry? No problem.

There are several visas available to South Africans who wish to immigrate to the UK. These range from run-of-the-mill work permits and spouse visas, to investor visas which allow you to invest funds in the UK in exchange for residency.

If you don’t you have a claim to British citizenship through your parents, or grandparents, you should consult an immigration expert. Together you can figure out the best way to relocate yourself to the UK.


While very few South Africans have ancestral ties to the land Down Under, thousands still choose to immigrate to Australia every year.

Australia_November_2015Most Australian immigration is based on the skilled migration programme, which assigns points to applicants based on their skills, work experience, age and other factors.

In an effort to encourage skilled migrants, the Australian government awards additional points to applicants who are applying for jobs that appear on the Skills Shortage List. This is a dynamic list and if you’re thinking of making the move to Australia you should consult the most recent version of it before approaching an immigration expert.

Australia also offers a range of visas that allow parents, family members and partners of citizens and permanent residents to live and work there. So if you have family there already, you may well be able to apply for a visa through them.


The Portuguese government has two citizenship-by-investment programmes aimed at non-EU citizens. These programmes aim to encourage foreign investment in Portugal by offering the incentive of Portuguese (and therefore EU) citizenship to investors.

portugal-139782_1920One of the programmes is the popular Golden Visa Programme (also known as the Golden Residence Permit Programme). This residency by investment scheme allows foreign investors to buy a property in Portugal and, in doing so, gain Portuguese (EU) residency, and eventually full citizenship. The residency requirements for obtaining and holding the Golden Visa are quite lenient: You are not required to live in this property and only have to spend a minimum of 14 days a year in Portugal to retain the visa and your residency rights.

These residency rights can also be extended to your dependant family members, which makes the programme particularly attractive to South Africans looking to invest offshore.

Portugal also offers a retirement programme aimed at non-EU individuals. It’s called the Non-Habitual Residence Programme and it allows you to retire in Portugal, take advantage of massive tax benefits and gain EU residency rights. This is a great option for someone nearing the end of their career who has children already resident in the UK or elsewhere in Europe.

Immigration seminars with Philip Gamble

This November in Cape Town and Johannesburg, world-renowned British immigration law expert, Philip Gamble, will be giving a series of seminars aimed at South Africans interested in pursuing claims to British nationality. Joining Philip at these seminars will be specialists on both Portuguese and Australian immigration.

The seminars are free to attend and will cover various topics, related to British nationality claims, UK and Australian immigration, and Portuguese citizenship by investment.

After each presentation the speakers will be available for in-depth Q&A sessions to help you with your unique circumstances. If you’re thinking of immigrating, or if you just want to investigate a “Plan B” for your family, book your spot at one of the free-to-attend seminars in either Johannesburg or Cape Town.

Book your place at these seminars today.

  • Gary Kockott is the Managing Director of Sable International. Sable International can help you internationalise yourself, your wealth and your business.
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