Citizenship: Administrative law

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

Administrative law is:

  • the legal principles relating to the government's powers and organization;
  • the legal control of the government's actions and decisions.

Administrative law ensures there is a legal basis for any action by a government representative, such as a citizenship judge. It sets standards that government officials must meet in making decisions about individuals.

In administrative law, the way a decision is made is often more important than the decision itself. Consequently, the decision-maker always has a duty to act fairly and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.


Powers granted by the Citizenship Act

The Citizenship Act gives many powers, such as the powers to grant citizenship and issue certificates of citizenship.
Section 23 of the Citizenship Act says the Minister can delegate those powers to those responsible for applying the law. The delegation of authority must be in writing.

As a matter of policy, the power to determine citizenship status and to grant, retain, renounce, or resume citizenship, is only delegated to Canadian citizens.

Burden of proof

Unlike the criminal law standard of proof "beyond a doubt," citizenship proof is the civil law standard of "balance of probabilities."

It is up to applicants to demonstrate that the balance of probabilities indicates that they meet the requirements of the Act.


It is an administrative law principle that, in the absence of a legislative provision to the contrary, the decision-maker is head  of the decision-making process.

Depending on the nature of the decision, a fairly high degree of procedural fairness is required. A decision likely to affect the rights of an individual (for example, deportation), requires more procedural guarantees than a decision that does not affect an individual's status.

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