Dual Citizenship: A blessing or a curse?

If you are South African you have probably heard many people say, “I wish I had a UK passport”. You may have even said so yourself.  It all sounds wonderful and many people see the UK as a place where the grass is greener, and opportunities are many.

It is fair to say that many South Africans would give up their citizens to escape the country, but at the same time they are proud of being South African. Securing a second UK passport is not something that you jump straight into and it does require a little thinking over.

South African and British Dual Citizenship

It is perfectly legal to have both UK and South African citizenship. There are however rules that cover this matter.

“There is provision within the South African Citizenship Act for retention of SA citizenship before securing foreign citizenship. Those over the age of 18 must apply and be granted approval for dual citizenship. If a South African does not apply for permission, they will automatically lose their citizenship,” says Ryan Rennison, managing director of Move Up.

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According to Rennison, there are many people who simply just want to move to the UK and never return to South Africa but there are some pros and cons around having dual nationality that should be considered before just escaping.

Reasons for retaining your South African Citizenship

Immigration experts generally suggest keeping South African Citizenship to keep your options open.

The first reason is that you never know what tomorrow will bring. The grass is not always greener in the UK, you may really miss the lifestyle of South Africa (the UK is quite different) or there could be any cause for return to South Africa. Keeping your South African Citizenship is a safety net.

Future Generations

No one knows what the future holds, so it may be best to keep your options open.

Not knowing the future is a huge consideration and renouncing your SA Citizenship on securing a UK passport can have a knock-on effect.

Making a hasty decision to throw every part of your South African life away can impact your children in the future, even children not yet born.

It is a big decision to renounce South African citizenship that goes beyond yourself. Immigration consultants urge clients to think long and hard about this potentially life-changing decision.

Your Assets

There are financial implications for retaining or relinquishing your SA citizenship.

Giving up your SA Citizenship can have an impact on your taxes, any inheritance and even something as simple as your bank account. Should you decide to renounce your South African Citizenship you need to declare it. 

This will make it very difficult for you to get credit in South Africa should you ever return. It is perhaps equally as easy to apply for dual citizenship as it to simply give up your South African Citizenship.

Benefits of Dual Citizenship

Whether you decide to keep your South African citizenship upon securing UK citizenship is entirely up to you. There are some benefits to dual citizenship, some a double-edged sword but still nonetheless beneficial in the long run.

With dual citizens a person has access to the social services of each country, admittedly South Africa is not great in this respect, but things could improve.

You can work in either country without the need for a work permit of visa and you can attend school or place of learning in either country. Should you so wish you can also run for office in either country.

Property Ownership

It is easier to own homes in the countries where you hold citizenship.

By keeping South African Citizenship, you can still own property in South Africa while also owning property in the UK. For many people, this is a massive advantage and allows them to send money home and effectively buy a holiday home or retirement home in South Africa.

One of the biggest gripes about South Africa is that the Rand is so weak while costs in the country are high. Dual citizenship overcomes this.

Double Taxation

A downside to dual nationality is potential double taxation.

Paying tax in two countries is not something many people enjoy but, depending on your individual circumstances, it may need to be done. While paying tax in South Africa while living and working in the UK may seem a waste of time once again it pays to think about tomorrow and look at it from a long-term perspective should you wish to return home for any reason.

The amount of extra tax you pay may be negligible and worth it in the long run. It is always worth consulting a tax expert who can advise you on your financial obligations relating to dual citizenship.

Ease of Travel

UK and South African passports offer different benefits and travel restrictions.

One of the top reasons people love having a UK passport is the ease of travel it brings. However, if visiting South Africa or other countries this may not be as easy. The South African Passport is known for its many restrictions, but it does secure visa-free travel to some countries that the UK passport does not.

Dual citizenship is possible between South Africa and the UK. While many people want to run away and get rid of their South African citizenship the reasons to keep it and have dual nationality soon begin to outweigh the reasons for denouncing it. To get the best advice speak to your immigration consultant and tax advisor.

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