Birth on soil citizenship

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Dear Mr Brown:

You assisted me in studying at a college in Toronto. I graduated a couple of months ago and I currently possess a post-graduate work permit. I thank you for all of your assistance thus far. My issue is that I am now pregnant and would like to know what will be the status of my baby in Canada when he is born. I have been hearing rumours about a change in the law, but I am not certain. Please provide clarification.


Dear DOR:

You are most welcome. I am pleased to hear of your progress and extend congratulations to you. In response to your questions, please note that there are three ways by which one may become a Canadian citizen. They are:

* By being born in Canada.

* By being born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent; or

* By naturalisation, which is based on application by eligible permanent residents of Canada who meet the criteria.

Birth in Canada

With few exceptions, such as the case of children of foreign diplomats, everyone born in Canada automatically becomes a citizen. The immigration status of the parents is not relevant, which has been the basis of criticisms by those who fear that it will be abused by persons who visit, study, or work temporarily in Canada.

The thought is that temporary residents would like to use the status of their child as a level to gain permanent status in Canada for themselves. Currently, Canada and the United States are the only countries to have birth on soil provisions. Other first-world nations restrict citizenship by birth on soil to children born to parents who are either citizens or permanent residents.

Birth tourism

In the 1990s, there were recommendations that children born in Canada should be Canadian citizens only if one or both of their parents is a permanent resident or Canadian citizen. That proposition proved to be very unpopular as it was generally thought that citizenship by birth in Canada is an important part of the Canadian identity and makes Canada a better society.

The term "birth tourism" refers to foreigners travelling with the intent to give birth in Canada so the baby can claim automatic citizenship. In many cases, these "passport babies" are eligible to sponsor their foreign parents to Canada once they turn 18. This notion is thought to undermine the integrity of the citizenship programme.

Review of citizenship policy

It has been reported that Canadian officials from various federal departments have, in relatively recent times, recommended the removal of citizenship to those born to non-citizens and non-residents. The office of the minister of immigration confirmed that the government is still reviewing citizenship policy with regard to the issue of birth tourism. However, it is worth noting that there have been relatively few reported cases (less than 500 cases per year). For example, in many cases, those who study and work in Canada, such as yourself,
will be able to attain permanent residence.

Those who are critical of the proposed changes have suggested that the proposal is worse than the current situation that it seeks to correct. It seems to result in negative situations for foreign workers and students whose intention is to contribute to the Canadian society, earn a living, and look after their families.

Pursuant to existing laws, should your baby be born in Canada, he will be a Canadian citizen.

For further information visit

Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC, is an immigration counsel, education agent and managing director of JAMAICA2CANADA.COM — a Canadian immigration & education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to




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