3 easy steps to find out if you are Canadian
If you are looking for simple answers to a solution to this all-important question, “Am I Canadian?”. Then read on…
Step 1 – The simple tool
Here is a simple chart explaining things if you are a Canadian.
Detailed explanations and alternative solutions can be found below this chart.
STEP 2 – Canadian Citizen Chart
|A.||Does not matter if your parent(s) are born abroad.||Born in Canada||Yes, you are Canadian!|
|B.||Does not matter if the parent(s) is born abroad.||You had a Canadian passport or citizenship certificate (card) in the past.||Yes, you are Canadian!|
|C.||Parent(s) born in Canada||Born outside of Canada||Yes, you are Canadian!|
|D.||Parent born outside of Canada but was a Canadian citizen at the time of your birth. ⚠️Make sure ‘F’ does not apply to you.||Born outside of Canada||Yes, you are Canadian! But …
See the first-generation limit below
|E.||Parent born outside of Canada and was a Permanent Resident of Canada at the time of your birth.||Born outside of Canada||No, you are not Canadian.
See other solutions below
|F.||Born outside of Canada and a parent inherited Canadian Citizenship from parents.||Born outside of Canada||No, you are not Canadian.
See other solutions below
|G. For diplomats, military and children adopted abroad, as well as children born abroad in 2009 or later to parent(s) born abroad, please read further down in this article.|
Step 3 – The solution
Here’s some more detailed information on the chart above, as well as solutions to help you get your documents
A. Born/Birth in Canada: obviously (with a few exceptions), you are Canadian.
Here is what you need to obtain all your documents:
- Get your provincial birth certificate from the province you were born in. Click here to find your vital statistics office.
- Once you have your birth certificate, apply for a Canadian Passport. Click here
B. You had a Canadian Citizenship Certificate/Card before:
Here you have two options, do-it-yourself and paid service.
Do-it-yourself options Click here
Pay Immigroup to get this for you: Click here
C. Born outside of Canada & parents born in Canada: OR
D. Born outside of Canada, but the parent had Canadian citizenship at the time of your birth:
Here you have two options, do-it-yourself and paid service.
Do-it-yourself options Click here
Pay Immigroup to get this for you: Click here
E. Born outside of Canada, but at the time of your birth, your parents were permanent resident card holders or a temporary visa:
F. Born outside of Canada and parents inherited Canadian Citizenship from parents:
See your options below:
Most people will fall under the situation where one or both parents already got citizenship through descent. See the diagram below:
In this case, given that your parents were born outside Canada and inherited their Canadian citizenship from your grandparents, the date you were born becomes essential.
- If you were born before April 17, 2009, and your parents applied for your citizenship and obtained a certificate and/or passport; then you’re a Canadian citizen.
- If you or your parents did not apply for Canadian citizenship before April 17, 2009, then you are NOT a Canadian citizen. See below for more information.
- If you were born abroad on or after April 17, 2009, to Canadian parents born abroad, you are NOT a Canadian citizen.
If this is your situation, then you have two options.
Option one: Move back to Canada with the Canadian parent as a dependent. This is worth doing if it meets the following criteria:
- You are under 22 years old, or you are over 22 but still in school and financially dependent on your family. Other situations can qualify, but you would need to seek a legal professional’s guidance. Click here to read the rules and click here to hire a professional.
- Your parent is willing to stay with you in Canada until you become a permanent resident. After you have accumulated 1095 days (3 years) in Canada, you can apply for Canadian citizenship and get your Canadian Passport. The whole process could take approximately four-and-a-half to five years. Here is how this works:
- File a Sponsorship Application. Here is the link if you are using the government. Or, you can contact Immigroup, and we will help you with this application.
Tip: you should start this application before you relocate back to Canada.
Note: If one of the parents is not a Canadian and they also are moving back to Canada, then you can also include them in the Sponsorship Application. You can find a do-it-yourself sponsorship option by clicking here.
Here is a typical story: One of the parents has Canadian citizenship, and the parents want their kids to have Canadian citizenship as well. The family lives outside of Canada, and the kids are still in school. The Canadian parent files a Sponsorship application, and the application gets approved, making the kids and the spouse permanent residents of Canada (PR is a very useful status and is almost the same as Citizenship). Next, everyone relocates to Canada, and after 1095 days in Canada (or 3 years), all the family members file for the Right of Citizenship and approximately one year later, everyone in the family has a Canadian passport. The whole thing will take 4-5 years to complete.
Option two: You look for alterative Canadian immigration applications to file. Here is what you need to do:
- Start researching on type of application you can qualify, this could be:
- Student visa: Going to school in Canada
- Work Permit: You will most likely need a job offer from a Canadian employer
- Express Entry Program: if you have a university degree plus some work experience, or a skilled trade with some work experience
- Once you have found the program, you then apply. To start, you can do it yourself by researching Immigroup’s website. Click here, go directly to the government’s website, or pay Immigroup to assess and find a suitable program by clicking here.
Tip: if you are still not sure if you qualify for a citizenship certificate, you can always apply for a Citizenship Certificate with no risk to you at all. The government will either send you your citizenship certificate or decline the application. It will only cost you $75 and take you proximally a year to year and a half to find out. Click here to start.
G. Military and Government:
If your grandparent was working abroad for the Canadian military or federal/provincial governments, and your parents were born abroad, they may pass on their Canadian citizenship to you if you were born abroad.
If you were born in Canada to foreign diplomats, then you are NOT Canadian.
Most frequently asked questions from our readers – FAQ’s
I keep getting conflicting answers; I am still unsure if I qualify.
The simplest thing to do is apply. See the tip above “if you are still not sure”.
My family has British heritage, and/or our family was born on British territory. Does this help my case?
Unfortunately, No. Whether you are a British subject has NO bearing on your Canadian citizenship unless you were born in Canada before 1947 (1949 in Newfoundland).
Are you looking for more in-depth information about this topic? Keep reading…
Definitions you need to know.
Right of Citizenship: These are the conditions under which a person is a Canadian Citizen and are listed in the government’s Citizenship Act. There are 3 ways of obtaining citizenship: being born in Canada, being naturalised after immigrating to Canada and getting citizenship by descent from your Canadian parents.
Citizenship Certificate: This is a letter-sized paper certificate issued on February 1st, 2012 when it replaced citizenship cards. It has a unique identifying number and includes basic personal information about the holder of citizenship, such as date of birth and gender, as well as the date you became a citizen. It can be electronically validated by immigration officials to prevent fraudulent copies from being attempted.
Proof of Citizenship: Documents that are accepted as proof of citizenship include: citizenship certificates; older citizenship certificates; citizenship cards (no longer issued as of Feb. 1, 2012); birth certificates; naturalisation certificates (issued before 1947); registration of birth abroad certificates (issued from January 1, 1947, to February 14, 1977); and certificates of retention (issued from January 1, 1947, to February 14, 1977). You can also apply for a Canadian Citizenship Certificate to see if you’re a Canadian Citizen.
The search of Citizenship Records: This is an application to search the government’s citizenship records to see if someone is a citizen of Canada. You must pay a fee of CAD$ 75, and you must have a valid reason to apply for a search, such as: confirming the date someone was naturalised; confirming an employee’s legal status; or renewing a foreign passport where you have to prove you are not Canadian; genealogical research; or getting a pension in Canada.
Naturalised: Somone who is a naturalized Canadian has immigrated to Canada as a permanent resident, complied with the residency requirements during the last five years and applied for and successfully obtained Canadian citizenship.
Legal Parents at birth: This is a reasonably new term arising from growing restrictions by foreign governments on adoptions abroad. It refers to the biological or non-biological parent listed on the original birth certificate or record of the birth of a child born abroad. If you are a non-biological parent who is adopting a child, you must do so before the child is born to be a legal parent at birth. PLEASE NOTE: a legal guardian is NOT a Legal Parent at birth.
Inherited/By descent: Inherited citizenship (citizenship by descent) is citizenship passed down from parent to child. There are several restrictions on this in Canada, especially the first-generation limit where only one generation can be born abroad and inherit their Canadian citizenship from their parents.
Permanent resident: Someone who immigrates to Canada, usually as a Foreign Skilled Worker or under the Foreign Skilled Trades stream, to live and work in Canada as a permanent resident. They have many but not all the rights of a Canadian citizen. Once they have lived for three years in Canada (over a maximum 5-year period to allow for visits or business trips abroad), they can apply for Canadian citizenship.
Jus Soli: This is the legal principle that states that if you are born in a country, you are a citizen of that country. It is typically prevalent in the Americas.
Jus Sanguinis: This is the legal principle that states that you must be directly descended from citizens of a country to qualify for citizenship of that country. It occurs in parts of Europe, most of Asia, parts of Africa, and the Middle East.
Let’s start with some history – Canadian nationality law
- Canada is NOT a republic. Canada is a constitutional monarchy with strong historical, cultural, and legal ties to the UK. We’re a former colony of the UK that has evolved in a peaceful non-revolutionary way over a couple of centuries towards almost complete independence. We say almost because Queen Elizabeth II is still our (primarily symbolic) sovereign.
- Canadian citizenship did not exist until the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946 was enacted on January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949, in Newfoundland). Until that time, Canadians were considered British subjects. The Canadian Citizenship Act of 1977 is now the governing law on citizenship in Canada, although there have been modifications to Canada’s citizenship rules since then, especially in 2009 and 2015.
- As a result, Canada’s definition of citizenship has evolved (like Canada itself), especially over the last 75 years. And that means that the rules defining who is and who isn’t a citizen have changed on multiple occasions since World War II. This mainly affects older British subjects who moved to Canada decades ago and never bothered to obtain their Canadian citizenship.
- In general, changes in Canada’s citizenship rules have tended to be inclusive – they have meant that people who were not considered Canadian citizens are now considered citizens. However, this hasn’t always been the case with the rule changes.
- On the other hand, even exclusive citizenship rule changes generally affect people born after the rule changes. However, they sometimes affect people who didn’t apply for citizenship before a rule change came into effect and no longer have the possibility of applying for citizenship. However, had they applied under the previous rules, they would have retained their citizenship despite the later rule change.
Sound confusing? Yes, it can be a little overwhelming. So, here’s a step-by-step guide and an online tool to help you see if you are indeed a Canadian citizen. We’ll ask you a series of questions, and based on the answers, we’ll help you find out if you are indeed a Canadian citizen.
Where were you born matters!
Most people born in Canada are automatically Canadian citizens because Canada has Jus Soli which is a legal principal that means if you are born in a country, you are automatically a citizen of that country. This contrasts with Jus Sanguinis which defines citizenship in terms of descent. Many countries in Europe and most countries in Asia and Africa have Jus Sanguinis. Most countries (but not all) in the North, Central, and South America have Jus Soli.
However, in Canada there is an exception to this rule. If you are born in Canada and one (or both) of your parents was a foreign diplomat at the time of your birth, then you are NOT considered a Canadian.
- The case of Deepan Budlakoti has illustrated how this part of the Canadian Citizenship Act is enforced. Deepan was born in 1989 to parents who worked as caretakers for the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, but regardless he was issued an Ontario birth certificate and twice issued Canadian passports. His parents applied for citizenship in the early 90s and included him in their application as a dependent. In later years, he was charged with criminal activity and sentenced around 2010 and then determined not to be a Canadian citizen by CIC (IRCC) in 2012, despite being issued passports. Here’s what the Ontario Court of Appeals said when ruling against Budlokati:
The fact that passports were issued to the Applicant is not, in this case, determinative of citizenship.
This shows that in the case of having parents who are foreign nationals and work for the embassy or consulate in Canada of their home country, you are denied Jus Soli and must apply to obtain your citizenship through naturalization like any immigrant to Canada. And it also shows that having been issued a passport is not necessarily legal proof of citizenship.
In other words, in the case of diplomats, who your parents are matters even if you are born in Canada. However, if your parents were temporary residents or even illegal residents born in Canada, you are considered a Canadian citizen.
What was the legal status of your parents on the day you were born?
If one (or either) of your biological parents or legal parents was a Canadian citizen on the day you were born outside Canada, then you are considered a Canadian citizen, as long as:
- Your Canadian parent was born in Canada, OR
- Your Canadian parent obtained Canadian citizenship by naturalization (they immigrated to Canada as a permanent resident and then successfully applied for citizenship).
What if your Canadian parent was also born outside Canada?
As of April 17, 2009, children born outside Canada to one or more Canadian parents also born outside Canada are no longer considered Canadian citizens. However, if:
- You were born on or before April 16, 2009, AND
- Your parents (or you) applied for and obtained your citizenship certificate/card at some point before April 17, 2009,
then you remain a Canadian citizen despite the rule changes on April 17, 2009.
PLEASE NOTE: If you were born outside Canada to a parent also born outside Canada on or before April 16, 2009, but you or your parents DIDN’T apply for your citizenship certificate before April 17, 2009, you missed your chance, and you are NOT considered a Canadian citizen.
What if my Canadian parent was born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent(s)?
PLEASE NOTE: If your Canadian parent was born abroad and adopted by Canadian parents and became a Canadian citizen, the same rule applies. In other words, if your Canadian parent(s) was adopted abroad and you were also born abroad on or after April 17, 2009, you are NOT considered a Canadian citizen. We’ll get into more detail about adoption abroad and citizenship below.
There are several important exceptions to this rule covering both step 3 and step 3a:
Exceptions to the 1st Generation Limit for Canadians born abroad to Canadian military members or Canadian government officials.
If your parent was born abroad to a Canadian military member serving abroad, then you can be born abroad and receive your Canadian citizenship by descent.
If your parent was born abroad to a Federal/Provincial/Territorial government official serving a mission abroad, you can also be born abroad and receive your Canadian citizenship by descent.
If you were born abroad to either a Canadian military member serving abroad or a Federal/Provincial/Territorial government official serving a mission abroad, then you are a Canadian citizen, and you can pass your Canadian citizenship on to any child of yours born abroad.
Now let’s talk about citizenship rules for Adopted Children Born Abroad
Were you Adopted Abroad?
Citizenship by Direct Grant for children adopted abroad
If you were adopted abroad, then you can become a Canadian citizen without immigrating to Canada. This is done by your Canadian adoptive parents, who apply for a Direct Grant of Citizenship. However, the following must be true: of at least one of your parents:
- At least one of your parents must have been a Canadian citizen at the time of your adoption. OR
- If you were adopted before January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, in Newfoundland & Labrador), then at least one parent must have become a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, if they were in Newfoundland & Labrador).
As a child adopted abroad who became a Canadian citizen by a direct grant, you CAN NOT pass on your citizenship to any child born abroad or adopted abroad.
PLEASE NOTE: As of July 2020, non-biological parents can pass on their Canadian citizenship to children only if they are what is called Legal Parents at Birth. This means they must be listed on the adopted child’s original birth certificate or birth record.
- In other words, they must be legally proclaimed in the child’s country of birth as the child’s parents when the child was born, not afterwards.
- This policy change has been implemented to satisfy complaints from other countries that Canadians are “appropriating” their children because those adopted children lose their birth country’s culture as they are taken to Canada and raised as Canadians.
- What this means is that if you adopt a child abroad, you are most likely going to have to sponsor it as a permanent resident, as we explain next.
Citizenship by Naturalization for children adopted abroad
On the other hand, your adoptive parents can instead sponsor you as a permanent resident. They apply on your behalf, and you obtain a PR visa in your foreign passport or travel document, and they take you to Canada with them.
Once you have landed in Canada as a permanent resident, you go through the regular application route (living for 3 years or 1065 days in Canada over 5 years and complying with the rest of the conditions of your PR visa).
Then your parents can apply for your citizenship – or you can directly apply once you turn 18. In other words, you become a Canadian citizen by naturalization.
As a naturalized Canadian citizen, you can pass on your citizenship to any children born or adopted abroad.
Are you possibly a person who became a Canadian citizen in 2015?
If any of the following scenarios describes your situation, you likely became a Canadian citizen in 2015 due to changes to Canada’s immigration act.
- You were born or naturalized in Canada before January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949, in Newfoundland). This meant that you became a British subject rather than a Canadian citizen. However, you did not apply to become a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947, or April 1, 1949.
- You were a British subject, usually living in Canada on January 1, 1947, or April 1, 1949, in Newfoundland and because of the requirements at that time, you weren’t eligible to become a Canadian citizen. Please note this means you could have lived for some time outside Canada, but Canada was your primary residence at that time.
- You were born outside Canada in the first generation before January 1, 1947, or April 1, 1949, to a parent described above.
- You were born outside Canada in the first generation before January 1, 1947, or April 1, 1949, to a parent who DID become a Canadian citizen on those dates, BUT you have never applied to become a Canadian citizen.
- You were born outside Canada and adopted before January 1, 1947, or April 1, 1949, and your adoptive parent became a citizen on those dates. As well, your adoptive parent has to have been eligible to pass on citizenship by descent.
- It is somewhat unclear if your adoptive parent had to have been born in Canada or whether becoming a citizen of Canada on those dates is equivalent to naturalization, and they, therefore would have been eligible to pass on their Canadian citizenship to you by descent.
Case Examples of Possible Canadian Citizenship
To help you see how Canada’s citizenship rules and regulations work, here are some theoretical examples.
I: Summer Sojourn to Banff Becomes Birthing Battle
Suppose that your mother, Sondra Smith, a senior economist with British National Bank, was on holiday in Banff, Alberta, with her husband Thomas while she was six months pregnant with you. Because of some complications that developed with Sondra’s pregnancy, they decided to not risk the long flight back to London and instead travelled by rail to Vancouver, where you were born. Both parents were in Canada on visitor visas and, by your birth, had remained just under 5 months in Canada, so their visitor visas were still valid. The Smiths had to pay the Vancouver Hospital for the birth of their daughter using their health insurance policy.
Is the child Canadian?
Reason: Because her parents are not foreign diplomats, Smith’s is Canadian by Jus Soli. Canadian law does not prohibit birth tourism, but it does state that the birth must be paid for by private insurance or cash. Here’s what the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) states on one of the government’s web pages:
- The Citizenship Act sets out Canada’s longstanding birth on soil law. Any changes to this law would have to carefully consider the broad implications for about 380,000 births in Canada annually.
- For example, birth certificates issued by provinces and territories and currently accepted as primary proof of Canadian citizenship would no longer be sufficient. Additional proof would be required to access many benefits and services, having significant implications for provinces and territories.
- While there is an increase in births by non-residents, statistics indicate that birth tourism is not widespread. However, the Government of Canada recognises the need to better understand the extent of this practice, and research is ongoing.
Birth on Soil Policy
- There are no inadmissibility provisions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would prevent foreign nationals from travelling to Canada to give birth. In addition, non-residents giving birth in Canada are not considered frauds under the Citizenship Act.
- Those travelling to Canada on a temporary resident visa who indicate they are visiting Canada to give birth must demonstrate that they can pay for the cost of giving birth.
Consultants Promoting Birth Tourism
- Budget 2019 invested $51.9M to protect Canadians and those seeking to start a new life in Canada from unscrupulous immigration consultants.
- This investment will increase investigations and enforcement, expand public awareness and strengthen oversight of consultants.
From this, we can see that there is some concern in the Canadian government that birth tourism might become a problem in the future, but that any attempts to tighten up Jus Soli by requiring more documentary evidence beyond a provincial or territorial birth certificate could prove problematic. Regardless, Smith’s child is Canadian by birth.
Would the daughter be Canadian if her parents had no legal status in Canada?
Reason: Although immigration officials might encourage the parents to return to their home country to give birth or even attempt to deport them if the daughter is born in Canada, she is Canadian regardless of her parents’ legal status – UNLESS they were foreign diplomats at the time of her birth.
Could this change in the future as the Canadian Government seeks to outlaw birth tourism? Yes, it could, and it might, but as of 2021, your parents’ legal status does not matter if you are born in Canada. Let’s consider a case that is birth tourism to illustrate this.
II: Couple Visits Canada to Give Birth to Canadian
Suppose your parents visited Canada on Visitor Visas (with a 6-month validity), knowing your mother was pregnant with you. Nearly 5 months into their visit to Canada, they gave birth to you in Toronto, using their private health insurance to pay for your healthcare costs in Canada.
Are you Canadian?
PLEASE NOTE: Despite you having a provincial/territorial birth certificate, your parents’ ability to remain in Canada or return to Canada is not at all assured. They would most likely have to immigrate to Canada, perhaps using Express Entry and applying for work in Canada as a Foreign Skilled Worker, for example. In other words, they shouldn’t count on having a Canadian baby as a passport to permanent resident or citizenship status in Canada.
III: Is Rosedale Baby Actually Canadian?
Suppose that you were born in Iran in November 2020, and your adoptive Canadian parents, who worked for the UN in Tehran, managed to get through the adoption paperwork in Iran as your biological father had died of COVID-19 and your birth mother was worried about being able to provide for an additional child. However, your adoptive parents were not listed as Legal Parents at Birth on your Iranian birth certificate.
Are you Roland Berkowitz, Canadian?
Answer: NOT YET
Reason: As neither of Roland’s adoptive parents was a Legal Parent at Birth, they had to sponsor to bring Roland to Canada as a permanent resident. In 3 or more years, assuming they remain sufficient time in Canada for Roland to meet residency requirements, the Berkowitz’s can apply for citizenship for their adopted son Roland.
IV: Brazilian Businesswoman Wishes She Had Applied Earlier
Your Grandfather was born in Montreal in 1920 and moved to Brazil in 1944, where your father was born in 1946. Your Grandfather applied for and received his Canadian citizenship in 1947. Your father remained in Brazil after your grandparents divorced and did not bother applying for Canadian citizenship until 2016, when he learned of changes to Canada’s immigration act. You were born in 1980 in Brazil but never bothered applying for Canadian citizenship.
Tatiana Braga, are you Canadian?
Reason: Had your father applied for his Canadian citizenship before you were born in 1980, and had he or you applied for your Canadian citizenship before April 17, 2009, you could have obtained Canadian citizenship. However, as neither of these things occurred, you missed your chance, and you are not a Canadian.
Allard Keeley has been a published writer on immigration policy since 2013. Has written for publications like The Federalist. Fluent in Spanish and English. BA Honors Economics Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.