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Do the criteria for permanent residence and for a grant of citizenship differ for adopted children?

Yes. For an adopted person to be eligible for a direct grant of citizenship for adopted persons at least one of the adoptive parents must be a Canadian citizen at the time of the adoption, or, for adoptions that took place prior to January 1, 1947, at least one adoptive parent must have become a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador for adoptions that took place prior to April 1, 1949) and be able to pass on Canadian citizenship to the adopted person. Other types of custody arrangements and adoption-like situations (guardianships) do not meet the requirements for a direct grant of citizenship for adopted persons. The adoptive parent must be eligible to pass on citizenship by descent.

If you choose to apply for citizenship through the direct grant of citizenship, your child will be affected by the first-generation limit to citizenship by descent. That means they will not be able to:

  • pass on their citizenship to any children they may have outside Canada; or
  • apply for a direct grant for any children they later adopt outside Canada, unless the co-sponsor for the adoption is a Canadian citizen by birth in Canada or through naturalization.

Both Canadian citizens and permanent residents can use the immigration process for their adopted children if the adopted person is going to live in Canada right after the adoption.

Another difference between the two processes is the adopted child does not have to undergo a medical exam or background checks when applying for a direct grant of citizenship. These are requirements when applying for permanent residence.

Where the requirements are the same for both types of applications, the adoption must:

  • be in the best interests of the child;
  • create a genuine parent-child relationship that permanently severs the legal ties to the child’s biological parents;
  • accord with the laws of the country where the adoption took place and the laws where the adoptive parents live; and
  • not have been entered into primarily to get a citizenship or immigration status or privilege.

If the adoption took place after the person turned 18:

  • all the requirements listed above must be met (except for the “best interests of the child”);
  • a genuine parent-child relationship must have existed when the adoption took place; and
  • that relationship must have existed before the adopted person turned 18.

In addition to these requirements, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act introduced a new requirement for direct grants of citizenship for adopted persons that the adoption must not have occurred in a manner that circumvented the legal requirements for international adoptions.

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