Children of Canadians Denied Canadian Citizenship under Amended Citizenship Act


Canadian immigration policy is continuously adapting to a world where borders are becoming less and less tangible. As studying at international universities, working abroad and dating foreign nationals are now commonplace for many Canadians, Citizenship and Immigration Canada must create policy suitable for today’s hyper-globalized world.  

On any given day, a Canadian can purchase a plane ticket online, reserve a hotel room using their smartphone and be on a different continent by the day’s end. While the removal of barriers to human mobility is welcomed by those with a passion for travel, it poses considerable challenges for Canadian immigration officials looking to distinguish benign citizenship applicants from those with ulterior motives.

In an effort to better discern who has legitimate ties to Canada, the government amended the Canadian Citizenship Act, effective April 17th, 2009. Under these new provisions, Canadian citizenship by descent will be limited to the first generation of children born outside Canada to a Canadian parent. Put simply, Canadian parents can only pass citizenship to their children born outside of Canada if at least one parent was born (or is a naturalized citizen) in Canada. CIC claims to have initiated the change as a means of protecting the value of Canadian citizenship, as prior to the 2009 amendment, Canadians were able to pass on their citizenship indefinitely to generations born outside of Canada.

With the heralding in of the new citizenship criteria, many Canadians living abroad are now learning that their children may not qualify for Canadian citizenship. Among those affected, is Paul Compton, an Ontario native who has been fighting to obtain Canadian citizenship for his three-year-old son Mateo, born outside of Canada only months after the new rules were introduced. The matter is complicated by the fact that Compton was born to Canadian parents who happened to be studying in Scotland at the time of his birth. Now working as a teacher at an international school in Lima, Peru, Compton, who spent the majority of his life in Canada and intends on eventually returning, feels betrayed that Canada won’t grant his son citizenship.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has admitted that the changes in citizenship rules have created adverse effects for some Canadians temporarily living abroad. In an attempt to provide a solution, CIC suggests families sponsor their children for permanent residency upon returning to Canada on a permanent basis. As this can be a time consuming and potentially costly process, CIC offers to award citizenship to approved permanent residency applicants, without having to fulfil the usual criteria needed for citizenship.

While there are a few exceptions to the new rules, such as for children born to a Canadian parent who is working outside the country for the Canadian federal or provincial governments, or serving in the Canadian Forces, there is no doubt there will be an increasing amount of Canadians and would-be Canadians affected by these changes.

To learn more about qualifying for Canadian citizenship please visit FWCanada’s website at and join the #cdnimm conversation on Twitter by following @FWCANADA.

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