Direct Canadian Citizenship for Adopted Children


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.


 1. In 2008 Canada added a new way for adopted children to be admitted to Canada.  Now parents have the option of obtaining Canadian Citizenship for their child overseas.  This is in addition to the original method which is still in place (obtaining a Permanent Resident (PR) Visa to enter Canada)).



The Direct Citizenship process is not available in all cases.  It is available only when the adoption order is finalized overseas before the child comes to Canada. At least one parent will have to be a Canadian citizen for the new law to apply.


The impetus for Canada's new citizenship law for adopted children arises out of a 1998 Federal Court of Canada decision. (the McKenna case) The court found that the different treatment of biological and adopted children in the former citizenship law to be discriminatory and contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.


2. The law does not grant "automatic citizenship". Citizenship will be granted abroad if there is an adoption order in place before the child comes to Canada and if the Immigration Officer is satisfied that following requirements have been met:



i. That the adoption is creating a true parent-child relationship and is not for some other purpose (this provision is used by immigration officers to prevent abuse of Canada's immigration laws).


ii. Whether the adoption complies with the laws and rules of the country of origin. Sometimes, the answer to this question is easy to determine and sometimes very difficult. In these latter situations, it will clearly hold up issuance of citizenship.


 iii. That the adoption itself is in the best interest of the child. There is no question that the best interest of the child should be at the heart of every adoption, but is this the best time to try to make this determination? There may already be an adoption order in place by this time, and in many cases the parents will already be bonding with and caring for their child. The governments of many provinces already have a process in place to determine whether an adoption is in the child's best interest. The Hague Convention procedures are also directed to determine just that issue. In a Hague Convention adoption, the Central Authority in the child's country of origin previously determines that (from that country's perspective) the adoption is in the child's best interest.


3. See the Immigration Canada a web page entitled Important Notice for Adoptive Parents which states:


"The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the rights of families and children. We have obligations under international Conventions to ensure children are not abducted, bought or sold, or removed from their biological families without their biological parents' legal consent. In some cases, extra steps in the citizenship process will be needed to make sure the adoption is truly in the best interest of the child".


This is not the language of "automatic citizenship". On the contrary this is the language of a government committed to living up to its responsibilities under international adoption conventions.  Determining whether all local and international laws' requirements have been met may not be a quick or easy process.


4. Lastly, if the overseas immigration officer decides not to grant citizenship, there is no appeal of that decision at all. The right of appeal remains however in the Permanent Resident Visa process.