A citizenship is a status carrying both rights and responsibilities granted to the citizens of a state; in the case of Canada, that specific status is called Canadian citizenship. A Canadian citizen is a person who is Canadian by birth or who has applied for Canadian citizenship to the immigration and citizenship authorities and has received a citizenship certificate. A person is probably a Canadian citizen if he was born in Canada; a person may also be a Canadian citizen if he was born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, but not necessarily. All Canadian Citizens, whether born or naturalised, have rights and responsibilities bestowed to them upon receipt of their citizenship. These rights and responsibilities must be preserved and are based on Canadian laws and the shared values of the society. Many of these are defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Constitution of Canada.
For details about Canadian citizenship, how to prove that you are a Canadian citizen, or how to resume or renounce your Canadian citizenship, please refer to the sections below.
Every year, approximately 150,000 permanent residents become Canadian citizens. The Canadian citizenship brings certain benefits such as the right to vote in political elections upon reaching the age of 18, the right to run for political office, the right to work for the Federal government of Canada (where citizenship is often preferred and sometimes required) and the ability to obtain a Canadian passport and to maintain one’s Canadian citizen status despite prolonged absence from Canada. Moreover, Canadian citizens travelling with a Canadian passport or doing business abroad are generally speaking well treated all over the world, Canada being renowned for its openness, peaceful foreign policy and respect of all signed international conventions. To obtain Canadian citizenship however, one will have to demonstrate a deep knowledge and commitment to Canada.
To be eligible to become a Canadian citizen, applicants must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have legal permanent resident status in Canada (which status must not be in doubt, e.g. not subject of an immigration investigation, an immigration inquiry or a removal order)
- Meet the physical presence and residence requirements (adults must have lived in Canada for at least three years in the past four years before applying to become citizens; minors do not need to meet this requirement).
It should be noted that an application for citizenship can be made only from within Canada.
Moreover, applicants must attend successfully the citizenship test. During this test, as part of the application process, the ability to communicate in either English or French as well as knowledge of Canada and familiarity with the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship will also be assessed. The citizenship test is usually a written test, but if necessary, one may be asked to attend an interview with a citizenship judge to support his candidacy. In exceptional circumstances, a citizenship judge shall determine the eligibility based on careful consideration of all the facts.
As a final step of the process, citizenship applicants are invited to a citizenship ceremony where they will take the oath of citizenship and receive, from the citizenship judge, their certificate of Canadian citizenship in exchange of their permanent resident card. The legal status as Canadian citizen takes effect as of the date the oath was administered.
Canadian citizenship is typically claimed in two ways:
a. by birth in Canada
b. by descent (by birth or adoption outside Canada)
- By birth in Canada
With one exception, children born in Canada are automatically Canadian by virtue of being born in Canada. The exception is when children are born in Canada to diplomats or persons with diplomatic immunities and privileges, and where neither parent is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada; these children will not receive Canadian citizenship automatically. Persons born in Canada can usually prove their citizenship with the provincial or territorial birth certificate issued to them at the time of their birth.
- By descent (by birth or adoption outside Canada)
On April 17, 2009, the Citizenship Act changed significantly since its last version adopted in 1977. Before the changes came into effect, Canadians could pass on their citizenship, by descent, to endless generations born outside Canada to Canadian parents. People born outside Canada on a second or subsequent generation to Canadian parents simply had to, before they turn 28 years old, submit an application to retain their citizenship, and either have lived in Canada for one year or have proven a substantial connection to Canada. Someone failing to proceed accordingly would however lose his Canadian citizenship, sometimes even without knowing. As for children born outside Canada and adopted by at least one Canadian parent, Canadian citizenship was not automatically granted and except for a narrow period of time from 2007 to 2009, the process was quite long and complicated.
Since April 17, 2009, to protect the value of Canadian citizenship, the new law limits – with a few exceptions – citizenship by descent to one generation born outside Canada*. From now on, children born outside Canada to at least one Canadian parent (born in Canada or naturalised) are automatically deemed Canadians. Symmetrically, children born outside Canada and adopted by Canadian parents (born in Canada or naturalised) are also automatically deemed Canadians, which was not the case prior to the change in the law. However, in both cases, because no official identification documents have been issued by Canadian authorities at birth, these first generation Canadian children cannot prove their Canadian citizenship and therefore cannot legally enter Canada. In order to claim the citizenship for their children born abroad and be allowed to travel back to Canada with them, the Canadian parents need to apply for and obtain a certificate of citizenship before beginning their journey.
Generally speaking, resuming Canadian citizenship refers to the act of recovering the status that a person once lost, has been unfairly deprived of, or gave up. We can separate people eligible to citizenship resumption into two groups: those who had their citizenship restored, and those who had not. This differentiation is due to new rules on citizenship that came into force on April 17, 2009, which either automatically restored citizenship to many people who lost it due to outdated provisions in previous versions of the law, or granted citizenship to people recognised henceforth as Canadian citizens for the first time. The main benefit of being eligible to automatic citizenship restoration is that is not required, which translates into huge time savings. The restoration of Canadian citizenship is usually possible for:
- People who became Canadian citizens on or after January 1st, 1947, when the first Citizenship Act took effect, and who then lost their citizenship. In such case, these people would have their citizenship status restored retroactively to the date they’ve lost it.
- People who have never been Canadians, but who are part of the first generation born outside Canada to a Canadian parent. In that second case, these people would have their citizenship status restored retroactively to their date of birth.
- Women who’ve lost their British subject status before 1947 on marriage to a foreign man
People in these situations might have to meet requirements and follow different [expedited] citizenship resumption procedures that may vary from case to case.
- Former Canadian citizens who voluntarily and officially renounced their citizenship as adults
- Former Canadian citizens who, under the old law, were required to apply to retain their citizenship before their 28th birthday, turned 28 before April 17, 2009, and did not take steps to retain their citizenship
For people in one of these two situations, citizenship restoration is not possible. However, citizenship resumption is possible upon obtention of permanent resident status and after having lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least one year, upon submission of a citizenship resumption application and, following a formal invitation, upon pronouncement (taking) of the oath of citizenship for candidates aged 14 or over.
It is important to mention that in some circumstances, citizenship cannot be resumed; it is the case, for instance, of former Canadian citizens whose citizenship was revoked by the Government of Canada because it had been obtained by fraud.
Finally, it is worth to be noted that resuming Canadian citizenship may cause loss of one’s present nationality or citizenship. Persons willing to resume Canadian citizenship should ask the government authorities of the country of their present nationality if their status will be affected.
Some countries do not allow dual citizenship and in some situations, one might decide to renounce (give up) his Canadian citizenship in order to acquire a new one.
Persons who want to give up their Canadian citizenship will need to complete a formal application. There are two different applications to renounce citizenship and depending on the way the citizenship has been acquired (e.g. if the person has obtained or re-obtained his citizenship as a result of changes to the Citizenship Act that took effect on April 17, 2009, or if he is a citizen by naturalisation, by birth or by descent), a person renouncing citizenship will receive either a document confirming that his citizenship was renounced, or a certificate of renunciation of citizenship.
To qualify to renounce the Canadian citizenship, one must prove that:
- He is a Canadian citizen of at least 18 years old
- His primary residence (domicile) is not in Canada
- He is not a threat to Canada’s security or part of a pattern of criminal activity
- He is a citizen of another country or will become the citizen of another country by renouncing his Canadian citizenship
In addition, the person renouncing the citizenship must not be prevented from understanding the significance of renunciation because of a mental disability.
Renouncing the Canadian citizenship involves loss of all the rights and privileges of the Canadian citizenship. A person will lose the right to travel under a Canadian passport and will lose the right to vote after renouncing his citizenship. For instance, if the person wants to remain in Canada or return to Canada as a permanent resident, he will have to go again through all the immigration procedures. After renouncing the Canadian citizenship, one must return to the Canadian authorities any Canadian citizenship certificates in his possession.
A Canadian citizenship certificate is a document proving that a person is a Canadian citizen. In a nutshell, any Canadian citizen is entitled to obtain a citizenship certificate and all new Canadian citizens automatically receive their initial (first) citizenship certificate as part of the citizenship process.
This category is meant for Canadian citizens who would like to apply for an initial Canadian citizenship certificate to confirm their status as Canadian citizens, for the renewal of a Canadian citizenship certificate (that has expired on April 17, 2009, or will soon expire), for the replacement of a Canadian citizenship certificate that must be updated (to correct a wrong/misspelled name, to correct a wrong date of birth or to reflect their new name), or for the replacement of a Canadian citizenship certificate that has been lost, stolen, damaged, destroyed or never received.
A Canadian citizenship certificate might be required in various circumstances. For instance, one might be required in order to vote, to obtain a Canadian passport, to obtain a driver’s licence, an enhanced driver’s licence or an enhanced identity card, to get a job, to access government services such as health care and the Canada pension plan, or to obtain a social insurance number.
These admissibility criteria are applicable without exception to all candidates who want to become citizens of Canada. If any of the following examples apply to your case, it will constitute an inadmissibility factor that could render inadmissible your application:
- Evidence of threat to Canada’s national security or part of a pattern of criminal activity
- Misrepresentation through withhold and/or distortion of facts and/or production and/or use of fake documents
- Non-compliance with the requests for documents required by legislation or failure to appear for an oral interview with a judge or a ceremony within the timeframes specified
Also the applicant must not be subject of the following prohibitions:
- Have been convicted of an indictable (criminal) offence or an offence under the Citizenship Act in the three years before he applies
- Being currently charged with an indictable offence or an offence under the Citizenship Act
- Being detained (or being released on parole or on probation)
- Being under a removal order (the person has been ordered by Canadian officials to leave Canada)
- Being under investigation for, being charged with, or having been convicted of a war crime or a crime against humanity
- Have had his Canadian citizenship revoked (the person has been taken away his Canadian citizenship) in the past five years
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