During the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, the global audience was surprised by the composition of the Chinese men’s and women’s hockey teams. In both teams, the majority of members were recently naturalized Chinese players from Canada, the United States and other countries.
According to the rules of the International Olympic Committee, only citizens of member states can compete on behalf of those states at Olympic events. However, the Citizenship Law of the People’s Republic of China clearly denies dual citizenship. Its article 8 stipulates that:
“…a person whose application for naturalization as a Chinese national has been approved cannot retain his foreign nationality.”
In contrast, Canada does not require applicants for Canadian citizenship to renounce their current citizenship.
In order to represent China at the Olympics, did dozens of Canadian hockey players renounce their Canadian citizenship when they obtained Chinese citizenship?
No Canadian hockey player has addressed the issue publicly. Eileen Gu, one of the brightest stars of the Winter Olympics, was asked this question during a press conference after being crowned Olympic champion. Gu, who was born and raised in the United States, and is an icon of the Beijing Winter Olympics after winning two gold medals and a silver for China, chose not to directly elaborate. if she is still a US citizen.
In the United States and Canada, renouncing citizenship is a complicated legal process.
According to citizenship law of Canada, the voluntary renunciation of Canadian citizenship is done through an application process with the federal government, subject to the approval of the Minister representing the Crown.
This article is an introduction to how Canadian citizenship is acquired, lost and regained.
How to become a Canadian citizen
If you were born in Canada after February 14, 1977, you are automatically a Canadian citizen. Citizenship is also automatically conferred if you were born outside of Canada to at least one biological parent who is a Canadian citizen, after February 14, 1977. The date “February 14, 1997” is significant since February 15 of this that year, the citizenship law replaced the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act. New citizenship law of 1977 updated the rules regarding citizenship, allowing dual citizenship for Canadians.
Other changes have been made to the citizenship law in 2007, allowing children born outside of Canada and adopted by Canadian parents to inherit Canadian citizenship. In 2009, the “first generation rule” was created, which meant that only the first generation of children born abroad to Canadian citizens would obtain citizenship. If a child was born outside of Canada after 2009 and one parent is a Canadian citizen, they would be entitled to Canadian citizenship. However, if only one grandparent is a Canadian citizen, the child will not be Canadian. The only exceptions to this rule are certain cases where the child was born or adopted outside of Canada, and the parent is employed by the Canadian government.
What if you are not the child of a Canadian? To become a Canadian citizen, you must first obtain permanent resident (PR) status and then apply for citizenship. There are several routes to get PR, depending on factors such as the province of Canada you plan to move to, your level of education, work experience, language skills, available funds and whether you have the family in Canada. The requirements for individual adults applying for Canadian citizenship are as follows:
- You have permanent resident (PR) status
- You are 18 or older
- You have been physically present in Canada for at least 1095 days in the past five years
- You may need to have filed your personal income tax return for three of the last five years
- You must know English or French and may need to provide proof
- You must have proof that you know Canada and understand the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship
- If you are between the ages of 18 and 54 on the date you sign your application, you must pass a citizenship test
- You cannot have unfulfilled conditions relating to your PR status
- You cannot have received a removal order (for leaving Canada)
- A criminal history or being marked as a threat to the security of Canada may make you ineligible
Adults can apply for citizenship on behalf of their children. Also, since 2017, minors no longer need a Canadian parent to be eligible for citizenship.
How to Lose Canadian Citizenship
A person can lose their citizenship if they became a Canadian citizen through misrepresentation or fraud, or by knowingly concealing information about their material circumstances. In these circumstances, their citizenship can be revoked.
However, it is also possible for Canadian citizens to lose their citizenship by applying to renounce their Canadian citizenship. An important requirement for such a request is that the person must:
- Already have citizenship of a country other than Canada, or,
- Be able to become a citizen of another country if he loses his Canadian citizenship.
The applicant must also:
- Be a legal adult (18 years or older)
- Not living in Canada
- Not be part of an organized criminal activity or be a threat to the security of Canada
- Be able to understand the importance of losing Canadian citizenship if the applicant has a mental disability
- Not be in the process of having their citizenship revoked
Interestingly, a person’s renunciation of citizenship can also be stopped if there has been misrepresentation, fraud, or knowing concealment of material circumstances in the process of obtaining citizenship.
Can Canadian citizenship be regained?
Short answer: yes. Native-born Canadians and immigrants to Canada may, after losing their citizenship, apply to regain their citizenship.
However, the conditions for recovery are strict. An individual should:
- Become a permanent resident of Canada again after losing citizenship
- Have met all immigration requirements for PR status
- Have lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least 365 days during the two-year period preceding the application for citizenship resumption
- If required, have correctly declared income tax for the year preceding the year in which the application for the resumption of citizenship is made
- Not having received a removal order (request to leave Canada)
- Provide details of the circumstances or background that may trigger the prohibitions under the citizenship law (i.e. criminal history, having received a removal order)
- Have not lost citizenship due to revocation by the Canadian government
If a person’s citizenship has been revoked by the Canadian government, they will not be able to regain their citizenship through an application. However, within 60 days immediately following the day the notice of revocation is sent to a person, that person may apply to the Minister for special relief in the circumstances of the case, for example, if there is children who will be directly affected, or if the revocation of that person’s citizenship renders him or her stateless.
For Canadian-born young athletes who represented China at the recent Winter Olympics, it is unclear whether they renounced their Canadian citizenship when they became Chinese citizens for the purpose of representing China. However, what we do know is that their Canadian citizenship can be regained if they choose to renounce it voluntarily, unless the citizenship has been revoked by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada.
In conclusion, citizenship status does not only affect the country a person can represent at international sporting events, it is also taken into account by the tax authorities when it comes to a person’s tax residency. Most countries require their tax residents to report worldwide income on their tax returns. People have to decide whether to renounce their original nationality if there is a chance of becoming a citizen of a second country, if dual nationality is not allowed by either country. For those who do successfully obtain Canadian citizenship, although there are methods to renounce it, given the complicated process of regaining it and other significant implications, such decisions should not be taken lightly.