The Pros and Cons to Canadian Citizenship

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Canadian Souvenirs

I recently received two questions about my still relatively new Canadian citizenship. One reader asked me if there were any drawbacks to applying for Canadian citizenship and another asked me why I decided to become Canadian.

Since applying for Canadian citizenship is usually the ultimate goal for most permanent residents, I’m going to try to answer both questions.

I already explained that to me, becoming Canadian was mostly an emotional choice: I chose to live in Canada and wanted to fully belong here. I became Canadian because I felt Canadian. So while this article mostly deals with the practical aspects of Canadian citizenship, don’t forget that it is a major decision and that it should not be made just because the Canadian passport is pretty. As you will likely hear when you take the oath of citizenship, being Canadian is much more than carrying a Canadian passport.

So what are the practical advantages of getting Canadian citizenship?

No more renewing your Permanent Resident card: once you become a permanent citizen, you receive a very high-tech permanent resident card. The first one is free (well, the cost are part of applying for permanent resident) and is valid for 5 years. Renewing a card cost $50, and the current processing time is—gasp!— 228 days. These long processing times can be a real problem is you must travel abroad as you will need a travel document to prove your status upon re-entering Canada. On the other side, a Canadian passport costs $87, is valid for 5 years and the processing time is only about 10 days.

Avoiding deportation and loss of status: permanent residents in Canada may lose their status if they don’t meet the residency obligations, stating that you must be physically present in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period. Permanent residents can also be deported if they are convicted of a serious crime. Canadian citizens don’t have any residency requirements and citizenship cannot be revoked for any crime committed after naturalisation.

Traveling to the U.S.A easily: our Southern neighbours, the U.S.A, are notoriously picky at the border. Even if you are a permanent resident in Canada, you are still consider a citizen of your home country. Citizens of a lot of countries require a visa to go to the U.S.A as tourists. Citizens of most Western Europe countries don’t need a visa because they are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) but still need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which costs $14, have an electronic passport, must have a return ticket, must pay land border fees, must stay in the U.S.A a maximum of 90 days etc. Note that a lot of flights from Canada to South America, Asia or even Europe have a stop-over in the U.S.A and visa rules apply even if you are in U.S soil for only 20 minutes. On the other side, a Canadian passport allow you to enter the U.S.A easily as a tourist, you don’t even have to fill out any forms. You will likely be less questioned as well and can stay in the U.S.A for up to 180 days. You may even be able to work in the U.S.A if you meet the NAFTA provisions.

Hassle-free travel worldwide: this depends on your country of citizenship. As a French citizen, I had it easy and could travel visa-free to most countries. But if you are a Chinese citizen for instance, you will need a visa to go pretty much anywhere except Hong Kong and Macau. With a Canadian passport, you can enter 157 countries visa-free. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Participating to Canada’s political life: as a permanent resident, you can’t vote nor you can run for political office. As a Canadian citizen, you can participate in shaping the country’s future.

Better job prospects: most federal government jobs are notoriously impossible to get as a permanent resident because preference is given to Canadian citizens. While not impossible, getting a high security clearance might be more difficult if you are not a Canadian citizen.

And what are the drawback of Canadian citizenship and dual citizenship?

Potentiality losing your first citizenship: not all countries allow dual citizenship. France does so to me it was a no-brainer, I just have two passports. But for instance, China doesn’t and Feng lost his Chinese citizenship when he became a Canadian citizen many years go. Losing your first citizenship can be emotional for some people and it can and bring bureaucratic troubles, such as needing a visa to visit your family back home.

Jury duty: I wouldn’t call it a disadvantage, but as you know, citizenship comes with rights and duties. Once of them is jury duty and as a Canadian citizen, you have to serve on a jury if called upon.

Potential legal problems: let’s say you are a citizen of Canada and Brazil. If you run into legal problems in Brazil, the Canadian government won’t be able to do much for you since foreign interference is rarely welcome. On the other side, if you are a Canadian citizen visiting Brazil and run into legal difficulties, Canadian diplomatic can try to help. Similarly, if the countries of which you are a citizen are involved in political upheavals or military conflicts it could become tricky.

Fulfilling your obligations as a citizen of a foreign country: because I’m still a French citizen, I still have duties. For instance, I was picked for jury duty a couple of years ago. Fortunately, French citizens who live abroad can be excused quite easily, otherwise, I would have had to go back to France to serve on a jury. France also has national service duty. I completed it when I turned 18 and it was very short anyway, but countries like Israel have much longer national service duty and citizens must comply.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

24 Comments

  1. What?! 10 days to process your passports? That’s so long…
    It only takes two hours in Malaysia. It’s RM300 (US$97) for 5 years (max period)
    But Malaysia Passports are quite bit rubbish, we even have to apply visas to visit Canada!
    It used to be visa-free before the 911 event, Uncle Sam was a bit concerned that so many Malaysians got into USA from Canada, hence the new restrictions. You see Malaysia has a huge Muslim population.
    Citizens from the British Commonwealth usually can travel quite easily between their countries.
    Australia is an exception, but Australian visa is very easy to apply. You can do it online yourself.

  2. Very interesting discussion you got here. I guess pros and cons depend on the person him/herself. I for one love to travel, to the visa thing is a good incentive. And given my background, citizenship for me is more of a simple chance label, instead of a heritage. Who knows, I might be a citizen of some other country by virtue of getting a job and settling there for long…

  3. I’m shocked at 228 processing… I don’t want to get on my renewal because my citizenship application is in process!!! But I still have a long ways to wait… ARgh.. Great write up for sure!

  4. I am having to struggle with these issues too, since I become eligible for citizenship in few months. I don’t want to lose Indian passport since its an emotional bond, but at the same time I can’t wait to have the travel flexibility that Canadian passport gives…

    And when I couldn’t vote in the city council elections, I was quite agitated. 🙂

    • New Canadian on

      Then you should not become a Canadian, the passport it’s not a travel pass. It’s an insult to us new Canadians who love this country and gives a bad name to immigrants.

      • You are entitled to your opinion but I have very little respect for Canadians who make judgments on good or bad immigrants. Don’t judge 😉

  5. Wow it’s so easy and cheap compared to the process in France! I can’t wait to apply for my citizenship even tough I might or not get it since there aren’t any clear requirements.

  6. @Lizz – I can totally understand… it’s both a drawback and an advantage of the country, because winter *can* be fun.

    @London Caller – 10 days sounds reasonable. It can be faster but since all Canadians now need a passport to go to the U.S (just a driver license was enough before) it created quite a backlog. U.K. passports are probably the best because they can get in a lot of their former empire without visas.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Canadian citizenship meant a lot to me because I chose to immigrate there and did it all by myself. I would have been less sentimental if I had gotten another E.U. citizenship I think.

    @expatraveler – I heard a while ago the processing time was crazy 🙁 I checked on the CIC website and I was shocked too.

    @Priyank – I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to lose your home country citizenship. This is certainly not an easy decision…

    @micki – Definitely!

    @Cynthia – I know, French citizenship requirements are not very clear. But at least you speak fluent French so it may be easier.

  7. i have been looking for a way to immigrate and or just live in Canada… I have a girl friend in Toronto, She wants more than anything in life to have me live with Her… I presently live in Buffalo, NY, work as an electrician here… i have close to 60,000 hours in this trade now, hold a Master electrician card…

    I do not want to become a citizen of Canada, to be able to use it social services, in fact i would just come back across the border to the Vhospitalal for medical needs, I would spend nearly every bit of money i make in Canada… I only want to be with the Woman i Love…’

    The biggest hurtle i face is that i am almost sixty, thus i am too oldimmigraterate to Canada, it does not matter that i will be able to continue to work 10 to 15 more years, as i am still viable and very strong and in good health… i just do not have the points for the federal skilled worker aevery timetime i do send a resume to a firm in Toronto, i never hear back, understandable i am not a Canadian lol.

    i would gladly work in Buffalo and commute, sign any paper to not use Canadian social services if only i could come home to Her every night… But that is not an option Canada offers…

    I Love Canada, everything about it makes me smile, i would do anything to be allowed to become Canadian, but i am starting to wonder if Canada just does not see me as a person but views liabilityliablity, even if i know without a doubt that what years i have remaining i would contribute greatly to my new Country.

    idk i have asked many times for help, some answer, very few have any idea how to help, outside of links to Canadian immigration web site which is full of double talk and pie in the sky information catering only to the Young?

    So if You have any ideas please offer Your advice and maybe i can find a way to my Loves door and be allowed to be where i am meant to be…

    • Have a look at the “How to immigrate to Canada” section. You can always do a sponsorship if you are in a relationship with a Canadian. There are no age limit for that.

    • why dont you marry your girlfriend and become a citizen that way? age and point system does not matter anymore if you are married to a canadian.

      • That’s not the perfect solution, though. First of all, marrying a Canadian citizen does NOT give you Canadian citizenship. That’s a myth.

  8. It is too bad not every immigrant see your point of view on becomming a citizen as I know many who lived in Canada just get citizenship and be able to get a passport to freely travel to other countries and have access to all the services Canada has to offer. Also, many of them go back to their home country to live and comeback to Canada only when they need health care (sadly to say many are Indian).

    • Oh well, there are always going to be people who just want a passport… I don’t even blame them, to each his own! But I think the majority of immigrants do stay in Canada and blend in!

    • This is a very prejudiced comment that you made. What statistics do you have to back up your allegation.

      Dont just rub the blame on INDIANS just because you had a bad experience with INDIANS.

      For that matter ppl from other nationalities also do it for the very same reason that you have quoted.

      Kindly refrain from making such baseless allegations.

      and Finally for your information…getting health care is much quicker and less painful on the wallet (considering you pay outrageous taxes) than here in Canada

  9. Thanks for this Zhu. My wife and I are looking into the whole Permanent Residence/Citizenship bucket of fun, and your posts on the topic are a huge help.

    And yeah, Pete, way to where your prejudice on your sleeve. You can’t get health coverage unless you are a resident for at least three months, and paying taxes. Canada’s immigrants pay a larger and larger percentage of those taxes, making it easier for all Canadians to assure the current and future viability of the healthcare system. As for people who go through this hugely invasive, expensive and stressful process to get the ability to move freely throughout the globe… good on ’em. It affects us not in the least.

    • I’m glad I’m able to help with the blog!

      Some people are very prejudiced. I did leave his comment but I fully agree with you 😉

  10. Nice summary!I m a Japanese citizen, thinking of applying for Canadian citizenship because a job that I m interested in requires to be a Canadian citizen and I am interested in voting here in Canada as well. As a person from a developed country where I could potentially loose my native citizenship, it is a lot harder to decide whether I should get Canadian citizenship or not. The only drawbacks for me are I need a visa to go to China as Canadian, there is no going back and my future children wont have a choice of choosing their citizenship.

    • Japanese citizens don’t need a visa to go to China? I didn’t know that and I’m surprised!

      It’s a really hard choice to make, for sure. I’m so lucky I was able to keep my French citizenship. It’s part of me, I wouldn’t have been able to choose. Let me know what you decide ultimately!

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