The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Dual citizens take note – and your Canadian passport

February 6 2017 6 February 2017


If you’re a dual-nationality Canadian who was surprised by the requirement that you have a Canadian passport for travel to Canada over the holidays – well, the CBA’s Immigration Law Section is not surprised at your surprise.

In fact, it warned the government in a letter last month that not enough notice had been given to the requirement under the new Electronic Travel Authorization policy that Canadians holding dual citizenship would have to travel on their Canadian passports or risk being denied boarding.

“We are concerned that without further consideration and additional notification this policy may frustrate the legitimate entry of Canadian citizens to Canada, against the spirit and the letter of our Citizenship Act,” the Section says.

Unlike the eTA iself, which is now required for visa-exempt foreign nationals other than Americans who are travelling through Canada, this change affecting citizens has not been well advertised, the Section says.

Since many Canadians with dual nationalities prefer to travel on their other passport for a variety of reasons, the government should defer the policy until an information campaign has been run, the Section says, adding, “these travellers should not be denied the right to re-enter Canada for failure to meet a requirement of which they may not have been aware due to lack of sufficient notice.”

The Section also has a number of concerns about the requirement itself.

The Section says it supports policy and process changes that meet the ever-changing needs of the country, but notes that the requirement that Canadian citizens with dual nationalities travel on their Canadian passports “is inconsistent with the government’s legal recognition of dual citizenship, and practical facilitation of a Canadian citizen’s right to enter Canada.”

Moreover, the policy creates two kinds of dual citizens, since people with dual Canada-U.S. citizenship are exempt from the requirement to travel on a Canadian passport.

Finally, the policy creates difficulties for Canadian citizens with children born abroad. “These children could previously enter Canada with proof of a right to Canadian citizenship,” the Section notes. “These children are not eligible for an eTA and, depending on a variety of factors, there may not be sufficient time for their parents to obtain a Canadian passport for them before they are due to travel.”

The Section recommends the government run an information campaign “to ensure parents of children born abroad understand the right of Canadian citizenship for their child, as well as the best way to facilitate their re-entry to Canada (passport or facilitation visa),” and suggests that special authorization be available indefinitely to ensure that Canadians who travelled abroad on their other passport are able to return to Canada.

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