Changes to citizenship laws limit ability to pass Canadian status to those born outside Canada, critics say

Posted by admin on Feb 3rd, 2009

For more info visit Canadian Council for Refugees backgrounder:

Globe and Mail. GLORIA GALLOWAY. February 3, 2009

OTTAWA — Expatriate Canadians say their children who have been born abroad are being denied the full rights of citizenship under rules that come into effect in April. Canadians who give birth or adopt in another country will be able to pass along their citizenship to their children. But those foreign-born children of Canadians will not be able to bestow that same citizenship on their own children should they also decide to adopt or give birth outside Canada. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the minister has heard from parents who fear that the new law will limit the options of their children adopted abroad. He is aware “of these concerns, and is seized of the matter,” Alykhan Velshi said. “Last week, he asked his officials to review this aspect of the legislation.”

But there do not seem to be similar plans to review the rules that will affect, retroactively, the many people born to Canadians working in foreign countries.

“Hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be affected by these rules. These people may be working or volunteering abroad temporarily,” Allan Nichols, the executive director of the Canadian Expat Association, said in an e-mail.

“My own children will be affected,” wrote Mr. Nichols, whose son and daughter were born outside of Nagoya, Japan, where he was working as a consolidator for a travel agency. “They were born abroad, but, of course, live in Canada. As bilingual (English-Japanese) children they hope to work in international trade in the future. Do I honestly need to tell them that if they have kids while working abroad, they will not be Canadian?”

The new regulations were released in December, after changes to the Citizenship Act were passed into law last spring. Exemptions have been extended for the children of Canadian diplomats and military personnel.

But those who have taken jobs overseas with multinational corporations, for instance, or have gone to another country to teach or work with aid groups, will be affected.

Robin Pascoe of Vancouver, who advocates for the interests of Canadian expatriates, said the new regulations will affect Canada’s competitiveness in the global economy.

“There is a mobile Canadian work force. And it’s not a small number of people who are going to feel the long-term effects of this,” Ms. Pascoe said.

In introducing the changes to the Citizenship Act, the government was trying to prevent foreign-born nationals from coming to Canada, obtaining citizenship, then returning to their country of origin and passing along citizenship endlessly from generation to generation.

But federal officials acknowledge they did not contemplate all of the ramifications when they crafted the legislation.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her group is concerned about people born Canadian citizens in another country – or adopted as Canadian citizens abroad – whose main or only meaningful tie to a country is to Canada.

The new rules, said Ms. Dench “leads to the risk of children of Canadian citizens being stateless.” Some countries do not automatically grant citizenship to children born within their borders.

Douglas Kellam, a spokesman for the Immigration Department, said that can’t happen because Canada has signed an international treaty that means it doesn’t have rules that could lead to statelessness.

“Potential stateless cases may be eligible to be sponsored in the family class for permanent residence,” Mr. Kellam said. “As soon as a minor child of a Canadian citizen becomes a permanent resident, the parent could immediately apply for a grant of citizenship on behalf of the child.”

A child born to a Canadian citizen who ends up stateless as a result of the new law could also apply for citizenship if they are under 23 and have resided in Canada for at least three of the four years immediately before they make that application.



A girl is adopted in China by Canadian parents and then raised in Canada. She returns to China as an adult and marries a Chinese man. She cannot pass along her Canadian citizenship to her children.

A boy is born in the United States to Canadian parents who teach at a university. He returns with his family to Canada, where he grows up. Like his parents, he also goes abroad to teach as an adult. He marries a woman who teaches at the same university in France. His children are not eligible for Canadian citizenship.

A girl is born to Canadian parents who have moved to Kuwait, where her mother works for a Canadian petroleum company. She is granted Canadian citizenship because her parents are Canadian. But Kuwait does not grant citizenship to children just because they are born in that country. When the girl grows up and has a child of her own in Kuwait, that baby is neither Canadian nor Kuwaiti.

Gloria Galloway


Children born to Australians outside of Australia must be registered to become Australian citizens, but the granting of citizenship is basically automatic. The second generation of children born outside Australia can be registered as Australian only if one of their parents is Australian and has lived for a cumulative period of two years inside Australia.

Children born to British citizens while they are outside the United Kingdom will be considered British citizens by descent, but they cannot pass along their citizenship to their own children born abroad.

Children born to American parents abroad can become citizens if both parents are American and at least one of the parents lived in the United States before the birth. If only one parent is American, the citizenship can be passed to the children if that parent lived in the United States for five years before the birth and at least two of those years occurred after the parent turned 14.

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