Canadian citizenship is the ultimate goal for many people. Yet, most people do not plan their citizenship path carefully or with foresight.
Most people acquire citizenship by birth or by naturalisation.
Citizenship by Birth
In general, if you were born in Canada, you are a Canadian citizen.
You may also be a Canadian if you were born in another country after February 14, 1977, and one of your parents was a Canadian citizen at the time of your birth. Prior to that date, there were a number of different provisions which either denied or revoked Canadian citizenship to children of Canadian citizens. For example, if someone was born in Canada, but became a citizen of another country, they would have lost their Canadian citizenship because Canada did not allow dual citizenship at that time.
A new law amending the Citizenship Act came into effect on April 17, 2009, which either restored or granted Canadian citizenship to as many as 200,000 people with Canadian ancestors. Most of these “lost Canadians” are living in the USA or Canada. As well, the new law limits Canadian citizenship to the first generation born to Canadian parents outside Canada; and allows people adopted outside Canada by Canadian parents between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977 to apply for a grant of citizenship.
Citizenship by Naturalisation
To be eligible to become a Canadian citizen, you must satisfy a residency requirement, have adequate knowledge of English or French, and have knowledge of Canada.
To meet the residence requirement, you must accumulate 3 years of “residence” in the 4 years immediately before your citizenship application. The definition of “residence in Canada” includes physical presence in Canada, and in some cases, even time spent outside of Canada may also be counted. Some applicants are asked to complete a “Residence Questionnaire” where they must answer questions about their ties to Canada, including schooling, work, properties and investments, income taxes, and so on.
You need to have adequate knowledge of one of Canada’s two official languages, either English or French. You must also understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, as well as an understanding of Canada’s history, values, institutions and symbols.
To evaluate your language abilities and your knowledge of Canada, you must take a citizenship test if you are between the ages of 18 and 54. Currently, citizenship applicants aged 55 or older are not required to take this test, though this may change in the future. The test is usually written although you may be asked to have an interview with a citizenship judge.
Sometimes your interaction with Canadian immigration will be used to assess if you have adequate language abilities. For example, you will be expected to:
- answer simple questions on familiar topics, using short sentences;
- show that you know enough words for basic everyday communication;
- tell a simple story about everyday activities;
- speak about something you did in the past (or will do in the future);
- give simple everyday instructions and directions; and
- express satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Citizenship for Adopted Children
There are 2 ways that children adopted abroad by Canadian citizens may obtain Canadian citizenship:
The parents make an application for Canadian citizenship for the child directly. In this case, the child will be considered the “first generation born abroad”, and his or her children, if born abroad, will not have a claim for Canadian citizenship.
Permanent Resident route:
In this case, the parents would first apply for the child to come to Canada as a Permanent Resident. Once the child has landed in Canada, the parents can apply for Canadian citizenship for the child. This usually takes longer, but the child will not be considered born abroad, so even if his or her children are born abroad, they will be Canadian citizens as the “first generation born abroad.”
How We Can Help
We have assisted clients who did not even know that they could have a claim to Canadian citizenship. Some Americans may choose Canadian citizenship as tax liability is dependent on residence. In cases where clients may have a claim to Canadian citizenship through one of their parents, we conduct extensive reviews of family trees and history to determine whether or not there is a valid citizenship claim.
For clients who wish to apply for Canadian citizenship by naturalisation, we assist them by analyzing whether they meet the basic requirements and recommend some options to put forward a better case.
If clients have their citizenship applications refused, we also assist by filing an application to the Federal Court against the decision.