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It's still not "automatic citizenship"
CITIZENSHIP FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN: CANADA'S NEW LAW FOR 2008Douglas R. Chalke
Executive Director, Sunrise Adoption, North Vancouver, B.C.
January 22, 2008
The impetus for Canada's new citizenship law for adopted children arises out of a 1998 Federal Court of Canada decision (the McKenna case). That court found the different treatment of biological and adopted children in the citizenship law to be discriminatory and contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
After several false starts Canada has finally passed new legislation to grant citizenship to children adopted abroad. As a group, adopting parents are used to feeling "left out" or ignored. The Federal Government should be commended for addressing issues of importance to adopting parents.
There has been much fanfare about this new rule, and it is frequently referred to as "Automatic Citizenship". But is it really?
Numerous statements have created high expectations among adopting parents. For instance:
I don't think either of these statements will prove to be correct.
In order to understand how the new law fits into the overall process of obtaining citizenship for adopted children, it is helpful to look at the current process.
The immigration and adoption process requires prospective adopting parents to:
After all these steps have been completed, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will issue a visa for the child to enter Canada as a permanent resident. The actual PR card is received by mail after the child arrives in Canada.
The final step is for the adopting parents to apply for Canadian citizenship by submitting the required evidence. Currently, this step takes several weeks. (In the recent past it had grown to a 30-month delay, but this bottleneck has been resolved). Once the child has Canadian citizenship, a Canadian Passport can then be applied for.
That is the basic immigration process (in some cases, it can get more complicated). In adoptions from Hague Convention countries an additional approval process is also required (not described here).
The New Law
Adopting parents come to the citizenship paperwork process near the end of a long process of preparing a ton of paperwork to complete homestudies and to send adoption dossiers overseas. None of that will change under the new law. Most of the steps described above will still be necessary.
At least one parent will have to be a Canadian citizen for the new law to apply. Permanent Residents of Canada who adopt internationally will not be able to use the new law.
The two steps that may be eliminated under the new procedures are the application for a Visa and the child's foreign immigration medical, but that will only happen in some cases (as detailed below).
The group of adopting parents who will be helped the most by the new law are expatriate Canadians living abroad who adopt overseas and have no intention of returning to Canada in the near future. Their child will be able to obtain Canadian citizenship by applying to the appropriate Canadian Embassy overseas. This group, however, represents less than 10% of Canadian adopting parents. What about the other 90%?
International adopting parents living in Canada fall into three groups depending on which country the child comes from:
There are several parts of the new law, which may have a significant impact on the adoption process.
Immigration officers, before granting Canadian Citizenship, must be satisfied:
Will this process create a delay in the foreign country? A recent government analysis of these procedures published in the Canada Gazette states:
Immigration Canada recently added a web page entitled Important Notice for Adoptive Parents which states:
This is not the language of "automatic citizenship". On the contrary this is the language of a government committed to living up to its responsibilities under international adoption conventions. The statement continues:
Determining whether all local and international laws' requirements have been met may not be a quick or easy process.
Lastly, if the overseas immigration officer decides not to grant citizenship, there is no appeal of that decision at all. Many groups objected to the lack of appeal process before the regulations were published but it fell on deaf ears. The right of appeal remains however in the Permanent Resident Visa process.
The new Citizenship law may not meet the high expectations adopting parents have for it. The law will not grant "automatic citizenship". Citizenship will be granted abroad if there is an adoption order in place before coming home and if the Immigration Officer is satisfied that certain requirements have been met.
For more, see Frequently Asked Questions about the new citizenship law.
Douglas R. Chalke is executive director of Sunrise Adoption agency in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
©2008 Sunrise Family Services Society
Published at Family Helper, www.familyhelper.net, on Mar. 24, 2008
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