Dual Citizenship

Since February 15th 1979, Canada has allowed for dual citizenship.

In essence we no longer require somebody to give up their foreign citizenship in order to acquire Canadian citizenship. That was not always the case. In fact there have been a number of issues over the last several years where references are made to “the lost Canadians.” These are individuals who went to another country and acquired that country’s citizenship and lost their Canadian citizenship. Before 1979, under Canadian law, if you voluntarily acquired foreign citizenship you would lose your Canadian citizenship. If a parent who is a Canadian and their children, who are also Canadian, moved to the United States where they applied for and acquired US citizenship, often the child would become a US citizen automatically with the parent and, at that time, the minor child would lose his Canadian citizenship as would the parents.

Bill C-37 has been introduced to address this issue. The bill is currently in the Senate and is expected to become law this year. It’s a bill to give back citizenship retroactively to these “lost Canadians.” In the past, people in this situation have had options to apply to resume their citizenship, but resumption of citizenship was not retroactive. Thus, a child born outside Canada to one of these “lost Canadians” would not automatically acquire Canadian citizenship. Under Bill C-37, however, had their children been born outside of Canada to them at a time that they should have still been a Canadian, their children now will also become Canadian citizens. So this Bill has far-reaching implications to many people who have lost citizenship because of either residency or because of taking out foreign citizenship.

It is important when people are applying for Canadian citizenship, that they are aware of the citizenship legislation in their first country. Canada does not mind if you keep your foreign citizenship when you become a Canadian citizen but other countries may have legislation or restrictions on dual citizenship. Canada may grant you citizenship, but it could have implications for your first country of citizenship.
People may want to retain their original citizenship for all sorts of reasons: ownership of property, inheritance, or even just from an emotional point of view. While they want to become Canadian, they do not want to sever their ties with their country of origin and so in many cases they do not want to be faced with choosing one country over the other. I think allowing dual citizenship is a real benefit to Canada because it gives Canadians more mobility in the world. If they have two passports and they do business abroad and in Canada, they can engage in cross border enterprises with fewer restrictions because of citizenship in other countries. I think we benefit from that as a country. It allows us easier access to have trade and export-import businesses with people who are able to bridge those ties between Canada and another country.

Some issues have been raised with respect to non-resident Canadians who are tax exempt benefitting from Canadian services. However, there are ways of addressing these concerns without restricting dual citizenship.

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If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with immigration law issues in the Vancouver, British Columbia Region, contact Embarkation Law Group for a consultation.

This article is taken from a March 18, 2008 interview with Joshua B. Sohn B.A., LL.B. an immigration lawyer with Embarkation Law Group, Vancouver immigration Lawyers. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.