Answer to a question from a reader

Am I automatically entitled to citizenship if I was born in South Africa?

The short answer

No. You only qualify for South African citizenship if at least one parent is/was a South African citizen or has permanent resident status.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I was born in South Africa to undocumented Zimbabwean parents. I am 18 years old and want to study here. Am I entitled to citizenship because I was born in South Africa?

The long answer

Unfortunately, just being born in South Africa does not automatically grant you citizenship. You automatically qualify for South African citizenship only if you were born in South Africa and at least one of your parents was a South African citizen or holder of a permanent resident's permit, or if you were adopted by a South African citizen. 

If your Zimbabwean parents were not citizens or permanent residents at the time of your birth in South Africa, you qualify to apply for South African citizenship now that you have turned 18, if: 

  1. You have not lived anywhere else but South Africa, and  

  2. Your birth has been registered under the Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA), 1992 (Act 51 of 1992). 

In that case, you could apply for South African citizenship in terms of Section 4(3) of the Citizenship Act.

But if your birth was not registered under the BDRA, you would first need to apply to the Department of Home Affairs for late registration of birth to get a birth certificate, which you would need to apply for citizenship.

These are the documents you would need to submit to Home Affairs for late registration of birth. You can get the forms from their offices:

  • Application for an ID (Form B1-9);

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

  • Supporting documentation like proof of birth, clinic card, etc.;

  • Written reasons why the birth was not registered within 30 days of birth;

  • Fingerprints of parent/s;

  • Your biometrics (fingerprints and photo);

  • Certified copies of parent/s’ IDs, or whatever other documentation they have, like marriage certificate, death certificate, etc.

Unfortunately, applying for late registration of birth is a long and difficult process as it involves an interview with Home Affairs, which has a large backlog of such cases. It is also possible that Home Affairs will request a DNA test.

If you find you are not getting anywhere with Home Affairs, you may want to ask for help and advice from organisations like Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre. Both have had a lot of experience in dealing with Home Affairs. These are their contact details:



Musina 015 534 2203

Durban: 031 301 0531

Pretoria: 012 320 2943

Johannesburg: 011 339 1960

Cape Town: 021 424 8561



Johannesburg: 011 836 9831

Cape Town: 021 481 3000

Durban: 031 301 7572

Wishing you the best,

Answered on July 2, 2024, 10:16 a.m.

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