Citizenship, Nationality & Rights

The following section deals with the citizenship, nationality and rights of Canadian citizens who wish to live overseas.

Citizenship

As a Canadian citizen, you are free to travel and live where you choose. Relocating to another country, even on a permanent basis, does not affect your status as a Canadian citizen. You may remain a Canadian citizen as long as you wish.

There are no restrictions on Canadian passports and they are valid for every country. Naturally, you are subject to laws and requirements of the country of relocation. You may be required to obtain a visa and/or a work permit. Some countries may require that you obtain a temporary resident card.

Some issues concerning nationality and rights may have an effect on expatriate Canadians. You should be aware of them.

Nationality

With its active immigration policy, Canada has become home to a large number of people who have dual nationality or dual citizenship. Dual citizenship occurs when an individual is a citizen of more than one country. Possessing dual citizenship is permitted under Canadian law but it can present some problems if a Canadian is relocating to another country where they also hold citizenship.

Each nation determines how it deals with its own citizens and being a citizen of Canada does not necessarily relieve an individual of obligations or duties they may owe to another nation. Some common obligations are;

  • compulsory national or military service
  • outstanding financial obligations such as education or training funding
  • taxation and debts owed.

Some nations do not permit dual citizenship and may not recognize your Canadian citizenship. In addition, certain social conditions such as same sex marriage, legal in Canada, may not be acceptable in other nations. Canadian laws, particularly laws dealing with marriage, divorce, child custody or property rights may not be enforceable in other countries.

If you hold dual nationality and plan to relocate to a country within which you hold citizenship you should contact the embassy of that country before you leave Canada. Establish what, if any, obligations you may have and resolve them. It is generally held that ignorance of the law is no excuse and the ability of Canadian authorities to offer consular help after the fact may be severely limited.

A list of foreign embassies and consulates in Canada is available from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Rights

While an expatriate may remain a Canadian citizen for as long as they wish, some of the rights they enjoy do change over time.

In 2009, the Government of Canada made a significant change to the Canadian Citizenship Act, which could have a profound affect on Canadian expatriates intending to have children or to adopt children while living abroad. The change limits the right of Canadians living abroad to pass on Canadian citizenship to children who are born or adopted outside of Canada. Full information on the details of these amendments can be obtained from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Voting in federal elections is another area where rights might change over time. With the exception of certain occupations, Canadians who have been absent from Canada for 5 years of more are no longer permitted to vote in federal elections. Full details of voting as an expatriate can be obtained from Elections Canada.

Canadian provincial governments usually have more stringent residency requirement for voting. For information on voting in provincial elections, contact your provincial electoral authority.

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Our Expat’s Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

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