15 June 2022 – Political Analysis
You can get South African citizenship through marriage, but you first need to apply for a permanent residency permit and then wait five years.
There are different ways to get citizenship in South Africa, but citizenship by naturalisation is the most common way for spouses of different nationalities.
However, in order to get citizenship by naturalisation, you first need to hold a permanent residency permit for at least five years.
Different ways to get citizenship in South Africa
In South Africa, the process to apply and receive citizenship in the country is regulated by the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010 (Act No. 17 of 2010), which came into effect in January 2013.
There are three main ways that you can gain citizenship in South Africa, namely, citizenship by birth, by descent, and by naturalisation. The first two methods are self-explanatory and require that you be born in the country or that your parents hold South African citizenship to become a citizen. Citizenship by naturalisation is a more complicated process and can usually only be processed once you have held a permanent residence permit for at least five years, or if you are a minor.
Can you get South African citizenship through marriage?
You can get South African citizenship if you are married to a South African or someone who has a permanent residence permit in South Africa, but the process is complicated and takes several years to complete. This process is the same for same-sex and heterosexual relationships and marriages.
The first important factor to understand in this process is the difference between permanent residency and citizenship. You can apply for a permanent residency permit if you want to live, study, or work in South Africa and this awards you many of the same rights as those of South African citizens. However, you can only apply to become a permanent South African citizen after you have held this permanent residency permit for at least five years.
This is the beginning of the process for getting citizenship if you are married to a South African. You first need to apply for permanent residency, which is also known as a spousal permit, if you are married to a South African citizen or permanent resident and then, when you have had your permanent residency permit for five years, you will be able to apply for South African citizenship.
It is also important to note that the five-year waiting period before you apply for citizenship is not the only step in the process that takes long. Just applying for the permanent residency permit can take up to 24 months, which is why many people choose to also apply for a spousal or life partner visa, as this application may be approved earlier.
The spousal visa
Applying for a spousal visa while you wait for your permanent residency visa is a good idea, as this allows the foreign partner in the relationship to study, work, and set up a business while they are living in South Africa, without the need for a work- or business permit.
However, his spousal visa is only valid for two to three years, which is shorter than the permanent residency permit, but it is a good temporary solution while the documentation and processes for the permanent residence permit is being finalised. This is also a good option for couples who have been married for less than five years and do not qualify for the permanent residency permit yet.
The permanent residency permit
In order to start the process of applying for a permanent residency permit or spousal permit, it is important to keep in mind that the marriage needs to be at least five years old. There are also other criteria that need to be met in order for the permanent residency application to be successfully approved, such as:
- You need to be able to prove cohabitation and shared financial responsibilities in your relationship
- The relationship must exclude any third parties
- The foreign applicant must have a good character and be in good health
Furthermore, your relationship also needs to last two years after the permanent residency is granted, or the permit will be revoked, but this does not apply if the South African party in the marriage passes away.
The citizenship application
Once you have held this permanent residency permit for at least five years, you can start the process of applying for South African citizenship. Applying for citizenship in this way is referred to as citizenship by naturalisation.
To apply for citizenship by naturalisation, you need to visit the Department of Home Affairs with the appropriate documents to get the application started