ARCHIVED – Operational Bulletins 134 – July 17, 2009

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

First Generation Limit and Citizenship by Descent – Clarification for Port of Entry Officers

This document has expired. Please refer to the appropriate Program Delivery Instructions for current information.


An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, S.C. 2008, c.14 (formerly Bill C-37), came into effect on April 17, 2009. One of the provisions of Bill C-37 is the limitation of citizenship by descent to the first generation born outside Canada to a Canadian parent. This means that individuals born outside Canada on or after April 17, 2009 to a Canadian citizen parent will only be Canadian at birth if:

  • either parent was born in Canada; or
  • either parent became a Canadian citizen by immigrating to Canada (obtaining permanent resident status) and being granted Canadian citizenship; or
  • either parent was working outside Canada as an employee of the Canadian government, a Canadian province or territory, or serving with the Canadian Forces (other than as a locally engaged person) at the time of the child’s birth.

The first generation limitation may also apply to foreign-born individuals adopted by a Canadian parent, depending on how the parent acquired citizenship. The foreign-born adopted children of Canadian citizens will be considered children born in the first generation outside Canada if they are granted citizenship under the December 23, 2007 adoption provisions of the Citizenship Act (which allows for a direct grant of citizenship without the need to first become a permanent resident). The foreign-born adopted children of Canadian citizens will not automatically pass citizenship onto any of their children who are born or adopted outside Canada.

Because of this first generation limit, it is possible that a person born outside Canada to a Canadian parent on or after April 17, 2009 will be stateless. Statelessness refers to the status of an individual who is not recognized as a national by any state under its domestic law. Persons born to a Canadian parent may be stateless at birth because they were born outside Canada after Bill C-37 came into effect, to a Canadian parent who was also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent; and if they did not acquire any other citizenship by birth through either parent or by birth on soil due to the laws of the country in which they were born.

Current situation

Border Service Officers (BSOs) of the Canada Border Service Agency at Canadian ports of entry (POE) may begin to encounter Canadian parents returning to Canada with their children who were born outside Canada on or after April 17, 2009 and who may not be Canadian citizens but may be citizens of another country. In many cases, these parents will have already been given advice on options for regularizing the status of their children in Canada and, where applicable, will have obtained the required documents to facilitate travel from an overseas mission before arriving at a Canadian POE. However, in some instances persons entering Canada from the United States or other visa exempt countries may not have been seen previously by Canadian officials and are unaware of the first generation limit introduced to citizenship legislation under Bill C-37.

As previously mentioned, there is the possibility that a person will be stateless as a result of the new legislation. However, because people coming to Canada who were born in the United States will be American citizens and because stateless persons coming from other countries will most likely not have the necessary travel documents to come to Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) does not anticipate stateless persons presenting themselves to Canadian officials for the first time at a POE. However, if this does happen, the changes in citizenship legislation do not impact the requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and the BSO should follow normal procedures as per IRPA.

Newborns with no Canadian documentation

In some border towns, the nearest hospital may be in the United States. POE officers may encounter Canadian citizen parents seeking entry to Canada with newborns who have no proof of Canadian citizenship and no travel documents.

To help determine if a baby born outside Canada to a Canadian citizen parent on or after April 17, 2009 is a Canadian citizen, the POE officer may:

  • verify that at least one of the parents was born in Canada (has a valid provincial or territorial birth certificate); or
  • verify that at least one of the parents was naturalized in Canada before the birth of the child (refer to RIM 08-035). Note: Some naturalized Canadians are now considered to be citizens by descent under Bill C-37 because, at the time of their birth, at least one of their parents was a Canadian citizen. These naturalized Canadians are unable to pass Canadian citizenship onto their children. Therefore, their newborn children are not Canadian citizens. If the BSO suspects this may be the case, the BSO should place a non-computer based entry in FOSS with the reasons why they feel the person may not be a citizen. CIC will make a determination of citizenship when contacted by the parent after they have entered Canada.

The changes in citizenship legislation that came into effect on April 17, 2009 do not impact the requirements under IRPA, including the policies and procedures regarding documentation or right of entry. POE officers should follow normal procedures as per IRPA and counsel parents to contact CIC as soon as possible for advice on the steps they must take to regularize the status of their non-Canadian children once in Canada or, if their children are Canadians, to apply for a proof of citizenship for their Canadian children.

For information on amendments to the Citizenship Act see Operational Bulletin 102 – Implementation of Bill C-37, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act.

Ongoing updates can be found on the CIC website at

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