Class B Citizenship - What Does it Mean?


This webpage is written and maintained by Douglas Chalke, a British Columbia lawyer. It is intended to provide adoption immigration information to prospective adopting parents who are adopting a child from another country.


In 2009 the Canadian government passed a new citizenship law that resolved a variety of issues about Canadian citizenship (Bill C-37). Buried in that law is a provision which puts a limitation on the Canadian citizenship rights of some internationally adopted children. The provisions of the new law are complex, so I have set out a series of questions and answers at the end of this explanatory note, which I hope will clarify the finer points of the new rules.


Essentially the legislation provides that the children of some internationally adopted children will not have a right to Canadian citizenship. In practice, this is likely to affect only a small proportion of all adopted children. What upsets adopting parents, however, is the notion that their children will have a lesser class of citizenship. In effect, the children are being discriminated against. Adopting parents do not want to feel that their children are second-class citizens.


The Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, 2008, begins with the following words:

"The Citizenship Act, under which CIC grants citizenship to eligible newcomers, affirms that all Canadians have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities whether they are citizens by birth or naturalization."


That changed April 17, 2009. In an attempt to solve the problem of Canadian citizenship being handed down generationally to people who don't actually live in Canada, the government has altered the citizenship rights of some internationally adopted children, and effectively created a different class of citizenship for them.


For the purposes of these FAQs, I will use the terms Class A citizenship to refer to full-rights citizenship and Class B to refer to the new, lesser-rights citizenship.


Q. Who does the new law apply to?


A. The new law applies to adopted children who receive their citizenship abroad, pursuant to the new direct citizenship provisions enacted in Canada on December 23, 2007. They will receive Class B Canadian citizenship.


Q. Should I care whether my child has Class A or Class B Canadian Citizenship?


A. Some adopting parents don’t care while other parents care passionately about this issue.  The important thing is to understand the issue and make an educated decision. Adopting parents should think about whether they wish their child to have Class B Canadian citizenship, and what effect that might have on their grandchildren.


Q. What happens if my adopted child has Class B Canadian citizenship and gives birth to a child overseas?


A. That child, your grandchild, will not have an automatic right to Canadian citizenship. He or she may be eligible to be sponsored as a permanent resident, and then apply for citizenship as soon as he or she becomes a permanent resident.


Q. How does it work for subsequent generations? Do they have Class A or Class B Canadian citizenship?


A. Generational Chart Showing Whether Descendants have Class A or B Canadian Citizenship Rights:

Q. If I am adopting parent who was born abroad to Canadian parents, can I adopt overseas?


A. You can adopt, but if you are single you will not be able to use the direct citizenship route. Your child will have to be admitted to Canada with a PR Visa. The reason for this is that the new law applies to children of Canadians born to Canadians overseas, as well as to those adopted overseas. However, if you are married to a Class A Canadian citizen, then you will be able to use the direct citizenship route or the PR Visa route.


Q. What should I do if I want my child to have Class A Canadian Citizenship?


A. Do not use the new direct citizenship route for children adopted overseas. Only use the old route of applying for a permanent resident visa for the child, and after the child is landed in Canada apply for Canadian citizenship. This child will have a Class A Canadian citizenship.


Q. Are the new rules retroactive?


A. Section 3 (4) of the Citizenship Act states:

"Subsection (3) does not apply to a person who, on the coming into force of that subsection, is a citizen."


What does this clause mean? It means that if you were a citizen on the day the new law came into force, then you will not lose your citizenship. The Immigration Department is interpreting this to mean that a person will not lose their Canadian citizenship, but the new provisions will change the quality of your citizenship.


So, for the adoption world, the law will be retroactive and will have the following result.


a) Adopting Parents who were born to Canadian parents overseas and acquired Canadian citizenship as a result. Any adopting parents in this category will have their citizenship changed from Class A to Class B as of April 17, 2009. As a result, when they adopt overseas, their children are not entitled to direct Canadian citizenship. Their only route will be to sponsor the child as a landed immigrant, obtain a permanent resident visa, and subsequently apply for Canadian citizenship.


b) Adopting Parents who were adopted overseas themselves as a child, and then became Canadian citizens through the Permanent Resident Visa process. The new law will NOT affect these adopting parents as they have Class A citizenship. Their adopted children will be eligible for direct citizenship (albeit Class B). If these adopting parents use the Permanent Resident Visa process, however, their adopted child will have Class A Canadian citizenship.


(c) The new law will not apply to children who would normally fall into the Class B citizenship definition, but whose parent is working overseas with the Canadian government (Federal or Provincial) or serving overseas in the armed forces. Instead, these children will have Class A citizenship. However, children whose parents are working for Canadian corporations, the United Nations, who are on vacation, or who are otherwise travelling outside of Canada do not get this exemption and will have Class B citizenship.


Q. What is the most serious consequence of this new law?


A. The most serious consequence that is evident at this time is that a child born overseas to an adopted person has some chance of being a "stateless individual" (this would be the adopting parents' grandchild). This leads to a number of questions:


(a) Why would this happen? - Only some countries grant citizenship to a child born in their country (Canada and the USA being examples of countries that do that). Many countries rely on the citizenship of the child's parents or some other criteria. The child would be born stateless if they did not derive a citizenship through either parent, and they are also born in a country where birth on soil does not give access to citizenship. As a stateless person, the child would have no obvious way to come to Canada.


(b) Is there a remedy? - A child of a Canadian who was born stateless abroad would have the option of applying for a grant of citizenship on the basis of statelessness. The amended Citizenship Act has provisions for granting citizenship to stateless children of Canadian citizens, but the child must first live in Canada for three years. This stateless child would have neither a passport nor a right to enter Canada, so it is not even clear how the child could travel to Canada to establish residence. One can only hope that there will be a benevolent immigration officer overseas who has empathy for the predicament that the Class B Canadian citizen finds himself in, and will grant the stateless child some sort of visa to come to Canada. This event will be 20, 30 or 40 years into the future. It is hard to predict what the world will look like then in terms of population and pressures on the Canadian immigration system. What will immigration officers say to a Class B Canadian citizen in 30 years who wants to bring their stateless child back to Canada? Adopting parents today will be the grandparents of that child. We can all hope it's a sympathetic response. Any born-abroad Canadian adopting parents could immediately face the problem outlined above. Again, this is because the provisions of the new law apply to children born outside of Canada as well as to those adopted.