Citizen by Descent
A Canadian citizen by descent is, generally speaking, a person born outside Canada who has acquired Canadian citizenship based on a Canadian parent. It does not include persons who have migrated to Canada and become naturalised Canadian citizens (also known as citizenship by grant).
Canadian law was substantially amended on 17 April 2009. The changes were, as a rule, retrospective, except that a person who was a Canadian citizen under previous law did not lose that status under the new law.
Overview of Canadian citizenship by descent
Canadian citizenship by descent automatically acquired at birth.
It is necessary to have a parent who was a Canadian citizen at the time the child is born. A parent's subsequent acquisition of Canadian citizenship does not count.
However, the reforms of April 2009 have retrospectively conferred Canadian citizenship on many people. If your parent is deemed under the 2009 law to have been a Canadian citizen when you were born, then you may be a Canadian citizen by descent, if your parent was born or naturalized in Canada.
Alternatively, you can see if the old pre-2009 law meant your parent was Canadian when you were born. If so, the old law may still benefit you.
Application for a Canadian passport or citizenship card is an application for evidence of Canadian citizenship, not for Canadian citizenship itself.
Since 17 April 2009, eligibility for Canadian citizenship by descent is restricted to the first generation born outside Canada. There is an exception for those whose parents are employed outside Canada by the federal Canadian government, or a provincial/territorial government.
Eligibility for Canadian citizenship by descent
A person is a Canadian citizen by descent if that person was born outside Canada:
to a Canadian parent before 1 January 1947 and became a Canadian citizen on 1 January 1947;
to a Canadian parent (usually a married Canadian father, or an unmarried mother) between 1 January 1947 and 14 February 1977, and registered as a Canadian citizen by descent by application before 14 August 2004. Such person was deemed under the old law to have been a Canadian citizen by descent retrospective to birth.
to a Canadian mother or an unmarried Canadian father between 1 January 1947 and 14 February 1977, and naturalized as a Canadian citizen under special provisions in the Citizenship Act by application made before 14 August 2004 (note that under the old law, such persons were naturalized Canadian citizens only from date of grant of such citizenship, and not citizens by descent).
to a Canadian born or naturalized parent on or after 15 February 1977
effective 17 April 2009, a
between 15 February 1977 and 16 April 1981, to a parent who was a Canadian citizen by descent, and that person successfully applied to retain Canadian citizenship by age 28; between 17 April 1981 and 16 April 2009 to a parent who was a Canadian citizen by descent.
Restriction on passing on citizenship
The one difference between an Canadian citizen by descent and otherwise is that children born outside Canada are not automatically entitled to Canadian citizenship by descent
-Unless the other parent is Canadian born or naturalized; or
-The parents are Canadian recruited employees of the federal or provincial public services.
-The reason for this restriction is to prevent Canadian citizenship passing endlessly down the generations to those who may have little or no connection with Canada. It ensures that there is a real or ongoing connection with Canada.
-The restriction does not apply where a child is born in Canada. In other words, if a child is born in Canada to a Canadian citizen (by descent) parent, then the child is a Canadian citizen automatically (otherwise than by descent).