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Canadian Citizenship 101

Being a citizen of a country is something that many people take for granted, and what comes with citizenship status can often lead to some confusion.

In this article, we will explore what it means to be a Canadian citizen as opposed to a permanent resident, which groups of people are born as citizens, who can obtain Canadian citizenship, and how.

Let’s quickly start with some definitions:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/immigration-citizenship/helpcentre/glossary.html

Canadian Citizenship: A person described as a citizen under the Citizenship Act. This means a person who: is Canadian by birth (either born in Canada or born outside Canada to a Canadian citizen who was themselves either born in Canada or granted citizenship); OR has applied for a grant of citizenship and has received Canadian Citizenship (Naturalization).

Naturalization: The formal process by which a person who is not a Canadian citizen can become a Canadian citizen. The person must usually become a permanent resident first.

What are the Differences Between Permanent Residents and Citizens?

Permanent residents of Canada have many of the same rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens. Both groups of people are allowed to live and work anywhere in Canada, both enjoy protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and both have a right to enter and remain in Canada for as long as they wish. There are, however, several big differences between the two groups:

  • PR holders cannot serve in the army;
  • PR holders cannot vote in any elections;
  • PR holders cannot run for public office at any level of government;
  • PR holders can be deported if convicted of a serious crime;
  • PR holders must apply to renew their PR card every five years, or else they could lose their status;
  • PR holders have a limit on the time they may spend outside of Canada before losing their PR status;
  • The child of a Canadian citizen (naturalized or born in Canada) may automatically be considered a Canadian citizen, regardless of where the child was born. The child of a PR holder, if born outside of Canada, would not enjoy the same status; and
  • PR holders are not issued a Canadian passport.

Who is automatically a Canadian citizen?

  • Most persons who are born in Canada.
    • Unlike many first-world countries, Canada does not have laws against “birth tourism”, which is when parents choose to have their baby in another country so the child may enjoy citizenship status on that country. There are only a few exceptions to this though (as is with all things immigration). The definition of “in Canada” includes persons born on Canadian airspace and Canadian waters, as well as persons born on some Canadian vessels or aircraft.

  • Most persons who are born outside of Canadian to a Canadian parent.
    • There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. Persons born outside of Canada on or after April 17, 2009, to a Canadian parent, are only considered Canadian citizens if the parent was either a naturalized Canadian or was born in Canada. This exception serves to limit the generations of Canadian citizens that are born outside Canada and have no connection with the country. Effectively, this means there can only be one generation of Canadians born outside of Canada.

Who can become a citizen?

  • Permanent Residents
    • PR holders have a right to apply for citizenship and may do so as soon as they meet certain requirements. At the time of writing this article, PR holders may apply for a grant of Canadian citizenship if they have lived in Canada as a permanent resident for three (3) out of the last five (5) years and have filed their taxes. (This is different from maintaining Permanent Resident status, which is two (2) out of the last five (5) years). Some time spent in Canada as a temporary resident may count towards this requirement. As part of the naturalization process, PR holders aged 18 to 54 are required to prove sufficient language skills in either official language and pass a citizenship test.
  • Persons adopted by a Canadian citizen.
    • Such persons are considered to be born in the first generation outside Canada, and therefore cannot pass on their citizenship to a child born outside Canada.

Lastly, some Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: If my passport expires, does that mean I’m no longer a citizen?

A: No! Unlike temporary residence or permanent residence, once you are a citizen, you are a citizen and your passport expiring doesn’t change this. I know many Canadian citizens who do not have valid passports, and that doesn’t make them any less of a Canadian citizen.

Q: How long is the processing time for a Canadian Citizenship application?

A: 27 months! (I know, it’s insane!)

For more information on which immigration option is best for you and your business, or for assistance designing your longer-term immigration strategy, reach out to me directly through my contact page.  We can set up a consultation to find the immigration option that works best for your specific needs.

Also, if you are someone who likes podcasts or watching YouTube videos, this blog post is also an episode of The Applicant Podcast!

Apple Podcast Link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-applicant-podcast/id1629521182

YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR4jq_cTry0CVEhX3mNJT_g/featured

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post were accurate at the time of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided above. This blog post is not updated on a regular basis.

Co-written by Lucas Wynheart and Rebecca Tripp

Originally posted on July 1, 2022

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