Changes to citizenship rules

Changes to citizenship rules around who is or who is not a Canadian citizen were affected when the Citizenship Act was amended in 2009 and 2015.

Changes made to the Citizenship Act in 2009 and 2015 gave Canadian citizenship to certain people who lost it and recognized others as citizens for the first time. The following information may help you find out who did or did not become a Canadian citizen under the 2009 and 2015 changes to the citizenship rules.

Note: These changes did not take Canadian citizenship away from any person who was a Canadian citizen immediately before the rules came into effect.

In 2015, you became a Canadian citizen if you were:

  • born or naturalized in Canada before January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador) but ceased to be a British subject and did not become a citizen on either of those dates;
  • a British subject ordinarily resident in Canada on January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador) but were not eligible for Canadian citizenship on January 1, 1947 (on or before April 1, 1949 in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador);
  • born outside Canada before January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949 in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador) in the first generation to a parent described above;  
  • born outside Canada in the first generation before January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador) to a parent who became a citizen on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador) and you did not become a citizen on either of these dates; or
  • foreign-born and adopted before January 1, 1947, and at least one adoptive parent became a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador for adoptions that took place prior to April 1, 1949); and the adoptive parent is eligible to pass on citizenship by descent.

In 2015, you did not become a Canadian citizen if you:

  • were born outside Canada after the first generation (unless one of the exceptions to the first generation limit to citizenship by descent apply);
  • renounced your Canadian citizenship or British subject status;
  • had your  British subject status revoked; or
  • had your Canadian citizenship revoked by the government because it was obtained by fraud.

In 2009, you became a Canadian citizen if you:

  • became a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947 and subsequently lost your Canadian citizenship;
  • were born or naturalized in Canada on or after January 1, 1947 and lost your Canadian citizenship;
  • were born outside Canada in the first generation to a Canadian parent on or after January 1, 1947 and you lost or never had citizenship due to former citizenship provisions; or
  • were foreign-born and adopted by Canadian parents on or after January 1, 1947.

In 2009, you did not become a Canadian citizen if you:

  • did not become a citizen on January 1, 1947;
  • were born in Canada but were not a Canadian citizen at birth because when you were born, one of your parents was a foreign diplomat and neither of your parents was a permanent resident or Canadian citizen;
  • as an adult, renounced your citizenship with the Canadian government;
  • had your citizenship revoked by the government because it was obtained by fraud;
  • were born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, were not already a Canadian citizen or you had lost your citizenship in the past, and you were born in the second or subsequent generation (this includes people who failed to retain citizenship).

Amendments to the Citizenship Act limit citizenship by descent

On April 17, 2009, the rules for Canadian citizenship changed for persons born outside Canada to Canadian parents and who were not already Canadian citizens when the rules changed.

These rules did not take Canadian citizenship away from any person who was a Canadian citizen immediately before the rules came into effect.

Canadian citizenship by birth outside Canada to a Canadian citizen parent (citizenship by descent) is now limited to the first generation born outside Canada.

This means that, in general, persons who were not already Canadian citizens immediately before April 17, 2009 and who were born outside Canada to a Canadian parent are not Canadian if:

  • their Canadian parent was also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent (the person is therefore the second or subsequent generation born outside Canada), or
  • their Canadian parent was granted Canadian citizenship under section 5.1, the adoption provisions of the Citizenship Act (the person is therefore the second generation born outside Canada)

unless their Canadian parent or grandparent was employed as described in one of the following exceptions to the first generation limit.

Exceptions to the first generation limit

The first generation limit to citizenship does not apply to a person born outside Canada in the second or subsequent generation if:

  • at the time of the person’s birth, their Canadian parent was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration or the public service of a province or territory, other than as a locally engaged person (a crown servant);
  • at the time of their Canadian parent’s birth or adoption, the person’s Canadian grandparent was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration or public service of a province or territory, other than as a locally engaged person (a crown servant).

The rules may also affect children adopted by Canadian parents outside Canada, depending on how the child obtained, or will obtain, citizenship.

Persons born to a Canadian parent who are not eligible for citizenship by descent due to the first generation limit may apply for and obtain permanent resident status and subsequently submit an application for a grant of citizenship under section 5 of the Citizenship Act.

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