Dual Citizenship in Canada

What is meant by dual citizenship?

Every independent nation makes its own decision as to who its citizens are. You possess dual or multiple citizenship when more than one country recognizes you as its citizen.

Unlike the law in effect in Canada up to 1977, the present Citizenship Act allows a Canadian citizen to acquire foreign nationality without automatically losing Canadian citizenship. Since February 15, 1977, a Canadian citizen may retain Canadian citizenship, unless he or she voluntarily applies to renounce it and the application is approved by a citizenship judge. The present Act thus makes it possible to have two or more citizenships and allegiances at the same time for an indefinite period.

Consequently, you may have the rights and obligations conferred by each of these countries on its citizens. Whenever you are in a country that recognizes you as a citizen, its laws take priority over the laws of any other country of which you are a citizen. International treaties may, however, allow exceptions to this rule.

A person may have several citizenships at the same time. For example, a person who was born in a country other than Canada, naturalized in Canada, and then naturalized in a third country may be a citizen of all three countries. However, cases of dual citizenship are more common. Although this pamphlet deals primarily with dual citizenship, the information contained in it applies equally to persons who are citizens of more than two countries. The terms "dual citizenship" and "dual nationality" are now used interchangeably.

How does dual citizenship occur?

If you, your parents, your grandparents and your spouse, if you are married, were all born in Canada, and you have not become the citizen of any other country, then you most likely possess only one citizenship ?Canadian.

However, if one or more of those persons were born outside Canada, this might result in your having dual citizenship, depending on the laws of both countries concerned. For example, if you were born in Canada and one of your parents or your spouse was born outside Canada, you might be considered a citizen by your parents?or spouse’s former homeland, even if you never asked to be one. Dual citizenship occurs because citizenship can be obtained in more than one way: through country of birth, naturalization, parents, grandparents or, in rare cases, marriage.

Citizenship is a complex matter because of the great variety of citizenship laws throughout the world. Some countries allow dual citizenship while others take away the citizenship of a person who acquires another citizenship. Some do not recognize a person's new citizenship. The laws that apply to your case are generally the ones in force at the time of the event that affects your citizenship (your birth or marriage or your parents?birth or marriage, for instance). This is why determining your present citizenship status can be a difficult and lengthy process.

Before the Citizenship Act of February 15, 1977, Canadian law limited dual citizenship. It also provided more ways to gain or lose citizenship than does our present law. Canadians who became citizens of another country before that date should check to see if they are still Canadians. Since that date, Canadian law, like the laws of several other countries, has allowed dual citizenship.

Are you a citizen of more than one country?

To find out whether you are or might become a dual citizen, you must contact the officials of each country in question. You will have to provide some information about yourself, such as place and date of birth, citizenship of your parents, immigration details, etc. You may also have to provide similar information about your parents, and possibly your spouse and grandparents.

If you are in Canada and want to find out if you are a citizen of any other country, you should contact the embassy or consulate of that country. (If it has no representatives in Canada, the Protocol Service of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa K1A 0G2, will direct you to its nearest representatives.) If you have questions about Canadian citizenship, you should contact the Call Centre in your area (in Canada) or any Canadian Embassy or Consulate abroad. You may also write to the Registrar of Canadian Citizenship, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ottawa K1A 1L1.

Dual citizenship: An important issue

Dual citizenship may carry with it certain benefits, but it may bring unexpected difficulties ?legal proceedings, taxation and financial responsibilities, military service, denial of emigration, even imprisonment for failure to comply with obligations in one of your countries of citizenship. Accordingly, you should ask yourself these vital questions: * Am I now a dual citizen? * Can I acquire dual citizenship, either by marriage or by naturalization in Canada or in another country? * Is dual citizenship an advantage or a disadvantage for me? * If dual citizenship is a disadvantage, what can I do about it?

Dual citizenship: Advantage or disadvantage?

Suppose you learn that you (or a member of your family) have dual citizenship or might acquire it. Would dual citizenship be good for you? Would it have more advantages than disadvantages?

For some people, dual citizenship offers practical advantages, e.g. social security or employment. It may also enhance their feeling of belonging, because they have strong personal ties to more than one country.

However, it is important to realize that there can be difficulties and disadvantages as well. The following paragraphs suggest some consequences of having dual citizenship. In general, the laws that apply to you at any time are the laws of the country in which you are physically present at that time. The laws of a country may provide, for example, that persons residing in the country of their second citizenship may travel only on the passport of their country of residence. Possession of a second passport could result in its being confiscated, or even in a fine.

If a Canadian has legal or other difficulties outside the country, Canadian diplomatic and consular representatives in that country can try to help. However, if the Canadian in difficulty in another country is also a citizen of that country, Canadian officials may be entirely unable to help. That country will be dealing with one of its own citizens, and probably will not welcome outside interference.?Indeed, foreign authorities will definitely consider you as one of their citizens, especially if you choose to travel under their passport. Travelling with a Canadian passport and another country's passport simultaneously might also lead to certain difficulties in a third country.

There may be laws in a country to which a foreign traveller is not subject, but which apply to you as a citizen of that country ?for example, restrictions on exit, compulsory military service, and special taxes or financial compensation for services received in the past, including educational costs. There might even be special circumstances relating to you in particular ?for example, friends or relatives may be affected by your visiting that country, or there may be legal proceedings pending against you that could begin again if you return.

You might be affected if countries of which you are a citizen are involved in political upheavals or military conflicts.

Even while in Canada, you might be approached with demands that you fulfill certain obligations to another country of which you are legally a citizen.

These are some of the possible drawbacks to dual or multiple citizenship. They might not apply in your case, but it is important for you to be aware of them.

Avoid the hazards of dual citizenship

Suppose you are or might become a dual citizen, and you feel that this could present problems for you, your spouse or your children, or others. You can do a number of things about it.

Before applying for Canadian citizenship, you are advised to find out if you can retain your present citizenship, and if this might cause problems for you or others.

Next, find out if you can renounce the citizenship that you do not wish to retain, and whether renouncing that citizenship will remove the possible hazards. Citizenship cannot be renounced merely by making a personal declaration to this effect. You need to apply to the appropriate authorities of the country concerned and obtain formal approval.

If you are or will become a citizen of another country and are living outside Canada, you may apply to renounce Canadian citizenship through any Canadian Embassy or Consulate abroad. Once you are no longer a Canadian citizen, however, you cannot travel on a Canadian passport or benefit from Canadian assistance outside Canada. Moreover, you cannot return to Canada as a permanent resident without going through immigration procedures.

Above all, avoid travelling to a country of which you are a citizen if it is likely to cause you difficulty.

Confirm your citizenship status

Citizenship laws are complicated. Do not assume that what applies to your friends and relatives will apply to you as well, even though your circumstances may be similar. Be certain about your own citizenship status. Seek information from the officials of every country of which you may be a citizen. Start with the Call Centre in Canada or a Canadian Embassy or Consulate abroad ?advice and guidance are free, and Canadian officials will be glad to give you information or tell you where it may be obtained.

Use the following telephone number to contact the Citizenship and Immigration Call Centre. The automated voice response system will give you answers to general citizenship questions 24 hours a day. If you wish to speak to an agent, call the Call Centre during the normal business hours across Canada of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and press ?.?

Call Centre: 1-888-242-2100

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Last updated June 29, 2005

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