Answer to a question from a reader

Can I apply for citizenship if I wasn't born in here and only one parent is South African?

The short answer

Yes, but you need to get a South African birth certificate first.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I was born to a Motswana mother and a South African father (deceased). My birth was not registered in South Africa but I hold a Botswana birth certificate that has my father's name on. Do I qualify for South African citizenship?

The long answer

This is what the law says:

A child born outside South Africa and of which at least one of the parents was a South African citizen at the time of the child's birth has a claim to South African citizenship by descent. The child's birth must, however, be registered in South Africa for the child to acquire South African citizenship.

Julian Pokroy Immigration Law Attorneys says the following: 

“Where a child is born to one (1) or more South African citizen parent/s but such child’s birth is never registered in accordance with the Births and Deaths Registration Act, the process that such child would need to go through in order to become a South African citizen is known as the late registration of birth process.

“The actual process of the late registration of birth involves an interview process between the Department of Home Affairs, the child and the South African citizen parent/s.  It is often that more than one interview is required with all these persons present. Please keep in mind that it is possible that if the child’s South African citizen parent/s are not in South Africa to attend to such interview that a South African citizen relative of the child can attend on their behalf.”

So, you would qualify for citizenship once you had got through the hurdle of late registration of birth (LRB). 

These are the documents the Western Cape government says you would need to submit to DHA for late registration of birth (LRB) if you are older than 15 years: 

“If you're older than 15 and haven't been registered, your birth registration application must accompany your application for an ID (Form BI-9). You’ll need to:

  • complete Forms DHA-24, DHA-24/A x 2 and DHA-288 for the registration of birth,

  • submit supporting documentation, as well as written reasons why the birth was not registered within 30 days of birth, and

  • you must be a South African citizen or permanent residence permit holder, with a valid South African ID.”

(Of course, you will not have a valid South African ID to submit as you are going through the whole LRB process to fulfil the condition of having your birth registered here in order to qualify for citizenship by descent.)

As your South African parent is deceased, Home Affairs (DHA) would probably start off by investigating your status to check that you do have a right to South African citizenship. You would need to have your father’s South African ID to prove that he was South African and a certified copy of your Botswana birth certificate. 

The DHA does have a specific hotline for enquiries about birth certificates and also a dedicated email address. These are:

Hotline: 0800 60 11 90


Once you have got the LRB done, you will need to submit the following documents to Home Affairs to apply for South African citizenship by descent:

  • Form DHA-24 to register your birth.

  • Form BI-24, signed by both parents if your parents were unmarried at the time of your birth, to confirm paternity.

  • Forms DHA-529.

  • Your birth certificate.

  • Your parents’ marriage certificate (if applicable).

  • Form DHA-9, the application form for an identity document, along with two ID photographs (for those aged 15 years and over).

  • Proof of your parents’ identity.

  • If applicable, proof of your parents’ foreign citizenship.

But unfortunately, the LRB process is a very long-drawn-out difficult business and there is a substantial backlog of people waiting for their LRB interviews. 

It may be a good idea to take all your documents and ask for help and advice from one of the following organisations that have a lot of experience in dealing with Home Affairs: 


Tel: 021 465 6433


Tel: Musina: 015 534 2203, Durban: 031 301 0531, Pretoria: 012 3202943, Johannesburg: 011 339 1960, Cape Town: 021 424 8561


Tel: Johannesburg: 011 836 9831, Cape Town: 021 481 3000.

  • The Black Sash


Tel: 072 66 33 73

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 23, 2024, 10:48 a.m.

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