Nationality in Namibia is governed by the 1990 Constitution and citizenship act, as amended in 2010. The law provides for citizenship on the basis of descent, and also for a child born in Namibia to acquire citizenship at birth if the parents are “ordinarily resident” in the country. Dual citizenship is permitted for those who have citizenship from birth; the courts have confirmed this in several cases.

The 2010 amendments to the citizenship act reflected a trend to restrict access to citizenship, increasing the period of residence required for acquisition of citizenship through marriage or by naturalisation.

The interpretation of “ordinarily resident” has been questioned, and in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that the interpretation could include a person in Namibia on a temporary residence permit. The government immediately moved to amend the law to restrict acquisition of citizenship at birth to chidren whose parents had permanent residence in Namibia, but later backed down from this proposal.

The Namibian constitutional provisions include a protection against statelessness for children born in the territory, although it is not complete (requiring the parents to be ordinarily resident). The law does not provide for a presumption of citizenship in favour of children of unknown parents; an omission which was regretted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2012. In practice, such children are usually granted Namibian citizenship.

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