Every independent nation makes its own decision as to who its citizens will be. You possess dual or multiple citizenship when more than one country recognizes you as its citizen.
Canadian citizenship law allows Canadian citizens to acquire a foreign nationality without automatically losing their Canadian citizenship. Canadian citizens who acquire another nationality may keep their Canadian citizenship, unless they voluntarily apply to renounce it and the application is approved by a citizenship judge. The law 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 may be 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, who applies for citizenship and is 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 people who are citizens of more than two countries. The terms “dual citizenship” and “dual nationality” are now used interchangeably.
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 these people were born outside Canada or acquired another citizenship, this might result in your having dual citizenship, depending on the laws of the 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 of your parents’ or your 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.
Canadian citizenship law before February 15, 1977, limited dual citizenship. Many individuals who became citizens of another country before that date lost their Canadian citizenship. However, on April 17, 2009, a new law came into effect that automatically restored citizenship to many of those individuals who lost it under the previous citizenship law and automatically gave citizenship to others who never had it. If you think this applies to you and you have questions, please contact us.
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 the place and date of birth, the citizenship of your parents, and certain immigration details. You may also have to provide similar information about your parents, and possibly your spouse and grandparents.
If you are in Canada and you want to find out if you are a citizen of another country, you should contact that foreign country’s embassy or consulate. To obtain the correct names, addresses and telephone numbers, you can consult the Consular Affairs website or call the Enquiries Service of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade at 1-800-267-8376 (toll-free, from anywhere in Canada) or 613-944-4000 (in Ottawa).
If you have questions about Canadian citizenship, please contact us.
Dual citizenship may carry with it certain benefits, but it may also 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 the following questions:
Suppose you learn that you have, or a member of your family has, dual citizenship or that you 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 (for example, social security or employment). It may also enhance the 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 of the 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 people 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. Where permitted by the laws of the country in question, the Government of Canada encourages Canadians to use their Canadian passport when travelling abroad and to present themselves as Canadians to foreign authorities.
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, there may be 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 that apply 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 the 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 fulfil 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.
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 you are living outside Canada, you may apply to renounce Canadian citizenship through any Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate outside Canada. If you automatically became a Canadian citizen on April 17, 2009, when new Canadian citizenship laws came into effect, you may also have the option of renouncing your Canadian citizenship through a streamlined renunciation process that does not require that you live outside Canada. 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. To find out more about the regular and streamlined renunciation processes, please contact us (see the “Contact Information” section at the end of this publication).
Above all, avoid travelling to a country of which you are a citizen if it is likely to cause you difficulty.
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 outside Canada. Advice and guidance are free, and Canadian officials will be glad to give you information or tell you where it may be available.
If you wish official confirmation of your Canadian citizenship status, including obtaining a citizenship certificate to confirm your Canadian citizenship, you must make an application and pay the appropriate fees. For more information, please contact us.
You can obtain information on CIC’s programs and services by consulting the Department’s website at www.cic.gc.ca. You can also download and print application forms.
If you are in Canada, you can contact the CIC Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100 (toll-free) for more information. The automated voice response system can provide you with answers to general questions 24 hours a day. You can also speak to an agent during normal business hours. If you are hard of hearing and you use a text telephone, you can access the TTY service at 1-888-576-8502 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. your local time.
If you are outside Canada, contact the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate responsible for your region.
Consular Affairs Bureau
CIC publications can be found on the Department’s website at www.cic.gc.ca.
Help us serve you better! Tell us what you think of this publication at www.cic.gc.ca/feedback.
The material in this publication is provided solely for general information purposes. In the event that any information in this publication conflicts with any provision contained in federal legislation (e.g., the Citizenship Act, the Citizenship Regulations, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations), federal legislation will apply.
© Minister of Public Works and Government
Services Canada, 2009
Cat No.: Ci52-6/2009