A person may become a Canadian citizen by birth, or by naturalization. Canadian citizenship provides certain rights and privileges, including the following:
- Right to obtain a Canadian passport
- Right to live and work in Canada
- Right to live outside Canada for any length of time without loss of status
- Right to vote in Canadian elections and to run for office
Nearly all persons born in Canada are Canadian citizens, regardless of the citizenship or legal status of their parents. Under new laws that became effective in 2009 and 2015, persons born outside Canada are Canadian citizens if either parent was born in Canada or naturalized in Canada. This law extends only to the first generation born abroad. In most cases this law is retroactive, meaning that some persons who had not been Canadian citizens, or who had lost their citizenship under previous law, became Canadian citizens. However, the new law is complex, and you should seek professional advice if you have questions about your Canadian citizenship. Canadian citizens born outside Canada can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship to prove their Canadian citizenship. Once they have their citizenship certificate, they can sponsor their non-Canadian spouse and minor children for permanent residence in Canada.
A person can apply for Canadian citizenship if the person is a legal permanent resident of Canada, and has lived in Canada for a total of four years (1460 days) out of the previous six years. This means the person must actually have lived in Canada. Living with a Canadian citizen spouse outside Canada, or working for a Canadian company does NOT count, even if this is considered living in Canada for purposes of preserving your permanent resident status. As part of the application process, a person must also demonstrate basic language ability in either English or French, and must also pass a test for knowledge of Canadian history, civics, and the Canadian economy. Once the application is approved, the person is scheduled to attend a citizenship ceremony, where the person recites the oath of allegiance. The person then becomes a Canadian citizen.
The new Liberal Government has introduced legislation that will reduce the wait time to three years residency out of five years, instead of four years out of six. This will make it easier and faster to become a Canadian citizen.
Canada today does not require that applicants for citizenship renounce their previous citizenship. However, acquiring Canadian citizenship may cause a loss of citizenship under the law of the person’s original nationality. Acquiring Canadian citizenship will not cause a loss of U.S. citizenship unless it is the person’s intent to renounce. U.S. citizens naturalizing in Canada should seek legal advice regarding the potential impact on U.S. citizenship, as well as the potential tax consequences.
Our office offers a wide range of citizenship services, including preparing citizenship applications, and counseling persons with respect to the impacts of acquiring or renouncing both U.S. and Canadian citizenship.