Basotho nationality law is regulated by the Constitution of Lesotho, as amended; the Lesotho Citizenship Order, and its revisions; the 1983 Refugees Act; and various international agreements to which the country is a signatory. These laws determine who is, or is eligible to be, a national of Lesotho. The legal means to acquire nationality, formal legal membership in a nation, differ from the domestic relationship of rights and obligations between a national and the nation, known as citizenship. Nationality describes the relationship of an individual to the state under international law, whereas citizenship is the domestic relationship of an individual within the nation. In Britain and thus the Commonwealth of Nations, though the terms are often used synonymously outside of law, they are governed by different statutes and regulated by different authorities. Basotho nationality is typically obtained under the principle of jus soli, born in Lesotho, or jus sanguinis, i.e. by birth in Lesotho or abroad to parents with Basotho nationality. It can be granted to persons with an affiliation to the country, or to a permanent resident who has lived in the country for a given period of time through naturalisation.
Nationality can be acquired in Lesotho at birth or later in life through naturalision.
Those who acquire nationality at birth include:
- Children born in Lesotho to at least one parent who is Basotho, as long as the parents do not have diplomatic immunity or are enemy aliens;
- Children born abroad to a Basotho national of origin; or
- Children who would otherwise be stateless.
Naturalisation in Lesotho can be granted to persons who have resided in the territory for a sufficient period of time to confirm they understand SeSotho or English and the customs and traditions of Lesotho. General provisions are that applicants have good character and conduct; are of legal capacity; and have adequate means of self-support. Applicants must typically have resided in the country for five years. Besides foreigners meeting the criteria, other persons who may be naturalised include:
- Children legally adopted by a Basotho parent, who at the time of completion of a legal adoption request nationality;
- The spouse of a Basotho national after five years of continuous cohabitation in Lesotho, who has taken an oath of loyalty;
- Minor children may automatically be registered when their parent acquires nationality;
- Refugees who have resided in the country for six years (five years cumulatively plus continuously the year preceding the application); or
- Persons from Commonwealth nations or those who are stateless, may naturalise with some conditions waived.