US/Canada Dual Citizenship Explainer?
December 7, 2016 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I was born in Canada in 1974 to a Canadian father and American mother. I have a US State Department-issued Birth of US Citizen Abroad and a Canadian birth certificate. In 1977, we all moved to the US, where we have stayed. My dad is a permanent resident alien with a green card. I have a US passport and social security number. I'm married to a US citizen and have a son. What is the process should I want to return to Canada, with my family?

YANM Immigration Lawyer and this is now and will likely remain purely theoretical. But for my own mental health (and especially the mental health of my husband who this election has really plunged into some serious anxiety) I'd really like to get a better handle on what would happen if the shit legitimately hit the fan in the US and we really saw no other choice for the safety of ourselves and our son but to go to another country. Can I just rock up to Canada and be like, "Hey long time, no see! I'm back, let me on in! Oh and by the way here's my husband and child, you'll love them." Would I have to have sponsorship? A job lined up? Would husband and child be able to get fast-tracked for their own citizenship? Would our family have to be separated first? Am I delusional about all of this and actually the fact that I was born in Canada to a Canadian citizen means nothing and I'd have to get to the back of the line with all the other "I'm moving to Canada" Americans?

Is there anything I can do now to get my papers in order just in case a hasty retreat needs to be beat?
posted by soren_lorensen to Law & Government (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that my googling has gotten me close to some of these answers but not quite all the way there. A lot of it seems to be sorted into "Canadian citizen living abroad as a legal immigrant or resident alien" or "Non-Canadian citizen who wants to immigrate to Canada." I never seem to find much for "Dual Canadian maybe-citizen who never really lived in Canada but maybe wants to now."
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:53 AM on December 7, 2016

I will be watching this thread because I am in a somewhat similar situation (Canadian/U.S. dual citizen married to U.S. citizen living in the U.S. contemplating moving back to Canada).

To answer one question, YOU could just waltz up to the border and start living in Canada. You can apply right now for a Cdn passport and use that to cross the border (maybe the birth certificate would be enough, not sure). In any case, you are pretty much good to go.

Your husband and kid would need to be sponsored by you, the Cdn citizen. I am not sure about the specifics of this process, that is where I am in the research myself.
posted by nanook at 7:59 AM on December 7, 2016

Here's the Canadian passport application form. Looks pretty simple, you just need to provide your birth certificate and one or more other piece(s) of ID documenting certain things (name, sex, signature...), and it looks like the supporting documentation does not have to be issued by a Canadian entity (so your US drivers' license would probably work (I am not a lawyer)).

You have to attest that you are a Canadian citizen. To my knowledge your having been born in Canada makes this true, but, again, I am neither a lawyer nor a Canadian, let alone a Canadian immigration lawyer. But I bet Citizenship & Immigration Canada could tell you, maybe even with a quick phone call.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:09 AM on December 7, 2016

Have recently looked into this - in regards to family separation and your spouse my understanding is that you can apply for "landed immigrant" status (that may be a not current term but I believe it is the equivalent of a Canadian green card) either internally or externally - that is from within Canada of abroad. As American citizens he (we) could stay in Canada during the process if filed internally, but I think probably not work. If you chose to apply via the external process (from outside of Canada) you would not, I don't believe, be prohibited from visiting during the process.

I was told that current turnaround time for landed immigrant status conferred via direct relationship with a Canadian citizen was around 18 months.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2016

Best answer: You wouldn't have issue coming to Canada, but you'd need to sponsor your spouse and children to be permanent residents of Canada. Once they're PR's, and they've been there for a period of time (I believe 3-4 years) they can apply for citizenship, but don't need to.

There'd be two ways to do this. 1) from the US, your husband and child would apply for sponsorship. This will take 6-24 months (I haven't been following timelines lately). For a period of time (2 or 5 years), you'll guarantee a repayment of any government assistance (note, OHIP/province health care isn't assistance). They'll be all-but guaranteed to be accepted.

2) you all come across the border (technically illegally as your spouse/child are planning to resettle, but it happens often enough) with your husband and child having an implicit visitor's visa and resettle. From there, you apply in Canada for spousal sponsorship. During this time, your spouse no longer can be deported (lacking other cause) at the end of the 6 month visitor visa. Actually, during the application phase, I seem to recall that they cannot leave Canada, or the process must start anew either from outside canada, or back inside (this will likely make border crossings more difficult). While the application is underway, your spouse can apply for a work permit with a temporary SIN. Also all-but guaranteed to be accepted.

This occured back in 2005 for me, but I believe I applied for permanent residency in March from within Canada. I received my work permit/SIN in May, and received my permanent residency Jun or July of 2006. I seem to recall that timelines for immigration via in-Canada applications were longer than those done from outside of Canada.

I'm unsure if route 1) might be complicated by your not currently residing within Canada. With either method of spousal sponsorship no job needs to be lined up, and the interview is more to see that you're in an actual realtionship, instead of the point-based system that a non-sponsored person would need to use.

Fees might have changed since 2005, but back then it was $500 CAD for the landing fee, and $100-200 CAD for the application. I needed to pay $200 for the health screening, and $20 for the immigration photos. Additionally we used a lawyer (definitely this was less stressful that way, but this isn't something that a reasonable adult without a fear or paperwork couldn't do), which I believe was $1500-2000. Some of the fee's might be less for minor children, and possibly if you use a lawyer they might also charge less than double for two people.
posted by nobeagle at 8:30 AM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I can speak to the passport process a little as a Canadian living in the U.S. the trickiest bit is that you need your original birth certificate and a Canadian guarantor who has known you for 2 years and has a valid passport (maybe your dad?). The guarantor requirement used to be a lot more annoying (no family members, had to be a doctor or lawyer or other professional type). There is an alternate process if you don't have an appropriate guarantor though.

IANYL, TINLA, but some of your googling problems might be coming down to asking the wrong questions. I would start with your status. As far as I am aware, being born in Canada makes you a Canadian citizen, period. You can renounce it, but I don't think you can be stripped of it. You should look into that, specifically.

It's probably a good idea to go ahead and get your Canadian passport, because then you'll have it.

Next, work on your family. Your son is likely also a Canadian citizen (born abroad to a Canadian citizen). Go ahead and get him his Canadian passport (and certificate of citizenship) too.

Your husband will likely need sponsorship. Run through this questionnaire on him (I made some guesses, and it came out as "Eligible for Family Sponsorship", I bet the answer will be the same with real data). You can putz about on the Immigration Canada site to figure out what the requirements would be for Family Sponsorship right now but I wouldn't worry too much about actually filling out those forms until you're ready to make the move.

Worst case, if shit hits the fan you and your son can get out tout suite, and hopefully it would only be a few months before your husband could follow.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:40 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am in no way qualified to answer this question, but from what I can tell - you, as a Canadian citizen, would just need to apply for a passport and you'd be good to go. You can live there, work there, do as you please.

Your son would likely be eligible for Canadian citizenship through you (see here), and IMO this might be a good thing to do regardless of whether you end up moving there or not.

Your husband would need to be sponsored and others have more info about that than I do.
posted by Shal at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

My understanding is sparklemotion and Shal have it. You can apply for the pasports for you and your child. For your husband, you would need to sponsor him. Speak with an immigration lawyer regarding the most optimal way to go about it. After living in Canada for a certain length of time, he can go through the citizenship process.

Health care coverage has a residency requirement, so you would all need private insurance for the first while. You also can't vote unless you actually move to Canada.
posted by TORunner at 8:50 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi! I was born to two U.S. citizens in Canada in 1979, and have lived in the US since about 2001. I'm married to a US citizen as well, and she too is dealing with some serious post-election anxiety. So I know exactly where you're coming from.

If you were born in Canada, you are a Canadian citizen. The only exception involve cases the children of foreign diplomats and the like. Similarly, your son is also a Canadian citizen. It used to be that he would have to apply to retain his citizenship by the time he turned 28, since he was born outside of Canada; however, some citizenship reforms in 2009 eliminated that requirement, and he will retain his citizenship indefinitely. (He will not, however, be able to pass it on to his own children.) As noted above, it wouldn't hurt to get a passport for him now. The first step would probably be obtaining a certificate of citizenship for him; once you've got that, you can apply for a passport.

If you're in the US, applying for the passport (both yours and your son's) must be done by mail; in fact, Canadian embassies/consulates in the US do not offer routine in-person passport services to their citizens. It's a little arcane because the process requires need a "guarantor" and two references, but it's doable (and in fact it's easier than it used to be.) If your father still has a valid Canadian passport, I believe he could serve as your guarantor.

nobeagle has covered the process that would be necessary for your husband to immigrate to Canada. Assuming a successful sponsorship process, he would be a permanent resident for the first few years, and could then apply for citizenship.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:08 AM on December 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

.A lot of it seems to be sorted into "Canadian citizen living abroad as a legal immigrant or resident alien"

This is what you are, as far as Canada cares. The only time a Canadian government official might care if you are a citizen of somewhere else is if you were asking for special help because you were in jail/in an accident and needed their help to get back to Canada, and they would possibly not be able to help if you were a citizen of the country you were stuck in. If you are not asking for unusual assistance then you're just another Canadian living outside Canada.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:23 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You also might have a tiny (don't worry, they are nice) bit of work to do with CRA over taxes. You are pretty sure not to owe any and it's not a big deal but that would be one step to deal with.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:52 AM on December 7, 2016

Response by poster: Outstanding, you guys. Thank you so much. I can't even express to you how much peace of mind this information has given me, and hopefully it'll also help my husband cope with his fears a little better. I'll be starting work on these various passport and certificate of citizenship applications for myself and my son right away. I had no idea he could be Canadian, too! Even if it were not for the current crisis, I still think that more options are better than fewer and obtaining dual citizenship for my son would be grand. This feels like a little bit of an early Christmas present.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

My husband is a Canadian born in Canada. I am a US citizen born in the US. Our sons were all born in the US. When each was born, my husband registered their births with Canada so each received a citizenship card, and eventually a passport. They each have US and Canadian passports. My understanding is that since my kids were not born in Canada, they cannot pass Canadian citizenship on to their kids if they are born outside Canada or don't have another Canadian parent.

When we moved to Canada, all of them entered on their Canadian passports. My husband sponsored me for permanent residence after we arrived, and I received an open work permit after I'd been in Canada for about a year. I now have permanent residence and can apply for Canadian citizenship after a number of years.

My kids travel into the US on their US passports, and back into Canada on their Canadian passports. Both countries now seem to require this, so it's important to obtain both if you're a dual citizen.
posted by gateau at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2016

You've gotten great answers above, just to share my experience as a Canadian-US dual citizen who has lived in both countries (and in fact went through the naturalization process for both):

- You were born in Canada under normal non-diplomatic-passport-type circumstances, so you're a Canadian citizen with full rights. Having a valid Canadian passport will make travel much easier if you ever plan to resettle in Canada, so do that ASAP.
- Your son is a Canadian citizen by descent, through you, so he also has citizenship but can't pass it down automatically to his descendants. You should apply for a certificate of citizenship (my parents did this for my younger sister, who was born in the US) and then a passport for him.
- Your husband will need sponsorship to move to Canada, but the odds of it being approved are pretty damn high barring extenuating circumstances (e.g. he has serious criminal convictions or a history of being denied entry to Canada).
- Canada recently started requiring dual citizens to enter the country on their Canadian passports, BUT there's an explicit exception carved out for US-Canadian dual citizens. Still, having both passports won't hurt and provides an instant escape hatch.

Bonus: your new Canadian passports (finally) won't expire for 10 years! I've kept mine current for the 15+ years I have lived in the U.S. and it's pretty annoying to renew via mail every five years, but now it's ten years just like the U.S. passport.
posted by serelliya at 1:20 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

About your children (they are Canadian, BTW), if they were born before April 17, 2009, they will be able to pass on their Canadian citizenship to their children at birth, like you did to them, no matter where the baby is born.

If your children were born after that date, since they were born outside of Canada, they will not be able to pass on their Canadian citizenship to their children (unless the baby is born in Canada). See the section My children were born on or after April 17, 2009.
posted by ninebucks at 2:39 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Canada is so nice it even provides an online tool to determine if you're a Canadian. I add the link here for other readers who may be interested.
posted by Capri at 7:57 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

« Older Baby knitting ideas for soft, but crazy hot...   |   Gift ideas for someone recuperating in Bremen... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.