Settlement Services

Obtaining Dual Citizenship

Unlike the law in effect in Canada up to 1977, the current Citizenship Act allows Canadian citizens to acquire a foreign nationality without automatically losing their Canadian citizenship. Since February 15, 1977, a Canadian citizen who acquires another nationality may retain Canadian citizenship, unless he or she voluntarily applies to renounce it and the application is approved by a citizenship judge. The current act thus makes it possible to have two or more citizenships and allegiances at the same time for an indefinite period.

Consequently, you may have the rights and obligations conferred by each of these countries on its citizens. Whenever you are in a country that recognizes you as a citizen, its laws take priority over the laws of any other country of which you may be a citizen. International treaties may, however, allow exceptions to this rule.

A person may have several citizenships at the same time. For example, a person who was born in a country other than Canada, who applies for citizenship and is naturalized in Canada, and then naturalized in a third country may be a citizen of all three countries. However, cases of dual citizenship are more common. Although this pamphlet deals primarily with dual citizenship, the information contained in it applies equally to people who are citizens of more than two countries. The terms "dual citizenship" and "dual nationality" are now used interchangeably.

If a Canadian has legal or other difficulties outside the country, Canadian diplomatic and consular representatives in that country can try to help. However, if the Canadian in difficulty in another country is also a citizen of that country, Canadian officials may be entirely unable to help. That country will be dealing with one of its own citizens and probably will not welcome "outside interference." Indeed, foreign authorities will definitely consider you as one of their citizens, especially if you choose to travel under their passport. Traveling with a Canadian passport and another country's passport simultaneously might also lead to certain difficulties in a third country. Where permitted by the laws of the country in question, the Government of Canada encourages Canadians to use their Canadian passport when traveling abroad and to present themselves as Canadians to foreign authorities.

There may be laws in a country to which a foreign traveler is not subject, but which apply to you as a citizen of that country. For example, there may be restrictions on exit, compulsory military service, and special taxes or financial compensation for services received in the past, including educational costs. There might even be special circumstances that apply to you in particular. For example, friends or relatives may be affected by your visiting that country, or there may be legal proceedings pending against you that could begin again if you return. You might be affected if the countries of which you are a citizen are involved in political upheavals or military conflicts.