Government of Canada introduces legislation for citizenship by descent

News release

May 23, 2024—Ottawa—Canadian citizenship is highly valued around the world. It provides the right to vote, to run for political office and to hold a Canadian passport. For many immigrants, citizenship is key to integration. It also provides a sense of belonging to a diverse and inclusive country built on the principles of democracy, equality and multiculturalism.

Legislative changes in 2009 amended the Citizenship Act to add a first-generation limit to citizenship by descent, which means that a Canadian citizen parent can pass on citizenship to a child born outside Canada if they were either born in Canada or naturalized before the birth of the child.

As a result of the first-generation limit, Canadian citizens who were born outside Canada cannot pass on citizenship to their child born outside Canada, and cannot apply for a direct grant of citizenship for a child born outside Canada and adopted.

Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, introduced legislation that would extend citizenship by descent beyond the first generation in a way that is inclusive and protects the value of Canadian citizenship.

This legislation would automatically confer Canadian citizenship to persons born abroad to a Canadian parent who is also born abroad prior to the coming into force of this legislation. It would also extend access to a direct grant of citizenship to children born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent beyond the first generation. Following the coming into force of the legislation, parents born abroad who have or adopt children also born outside Canada will need to have spent at least 1,095 cumulative days of physical presence in Canada prior to the birth or adoption of their child to pass on citizenship.

Bill C-71, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (2024), would also restore citizenship to “Lost Canadians”—individuals who lost or never acquired citizenship as a result of outdated provisions of previous citizenship legislation. Bill C-71 would also provide citizenship to the descendants of “Lost Canadians” and to anyone born abroad to a Canadian parent in the second or subsequent generations, before the legislation comes into force.

People who may be impacted by the changes proposed in Bill C-71, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (2024), will no doubt have questions about what this means for them and their families. If the bill passes in Parliament and receives royal assent, we will work as quickly as possible to implement these changes and will provide more information for eligible individuals on our website.


“The current rules generally restrict citizenship by descent to the first generation, excluding some people who have a genuine connection to Canada. This has unacceptable consequences for families and impacts life choices, such as where individuals may choose to live, work, study, or even where to have children and raise a family. These changes aim to be inclusive and protect the value of Canadian citizenship, as we are committed to making the citizenship process as fair and transparent as possible.”

– The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Quick facts

  • Under the former section 8 of the Citizenship Act, some individuals lost citizenship at the age of 28. These generally include people born as the second generation abroad between February 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, who turned 28 before the first-generation limit was introduced in 2009.

  • Legislative changes in 2009 and 2015 restored or gave citizenship to the vast majority of “Lost Canadians” who had lost it or never received it due to outdated legislation. A number of people have been issued certificates of Canadian citizenship as a result of these changes.

  • On December 19, 2023, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared that the first-generation limit is unconstitutional, which generally limited citizenship by descent to persons who are born to a Canadian parent abroad in the first generation (with some exceptions). The Government of Canada did not appeal the ruling because we agree that the law has unacceptable consequences for Canadians whose children were born outside the country.

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Contacts for media only:

Bahoz Dara Aziz
Press Secretary
Minister’s Office
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Media Relations
Communications Sector
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

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