Last updated on April 8th, 2019

Last Updated on April 8, 2019 by Steven Meurrens

It is not uncommon for Canadians to adopt children from abroad.

The Process

Obtaining citizenship through adoption is a two-part process.

Part 1 is used to determine whether at least one of the adoptive parents is a Canadian citizen born or naturalized in Canada and is eligible to pass on citizenship.

Part 2 is used to assess the adopted person’s eligibility for Canadian citizenship.

For the adoption of minors, the adoption must be carried out respecting the best interests of the child, must create a genuine parent-child relationship that permanently severs the legal ties with the child’s biological parents and must be carried out in accordance with the laws of the place where the adoption took place and the laws where the adoptive parents resided at the time. Finally, the adoption cannot have been entered primarily for the purpose of obtaining a Canadian immigration or citizenship benefit.

These requirements are discussed in more detail below.

For the adoption of adults, an additional requirement is that a genuine parent-child relationship must have exited before the person turned 18 and at the time of adoption.

One Generation Limit

Since 2009 Canada has limited citizenship by descent to one generation.  As such, it is important to note that eligibility for citizenship through adoption is limited to adopted children of a Canadian parent who is a citizen by birth in Canada or by naturalisation.  There is an exception to this if the Canadian parent was employed outside Canada for the Canadian government, the Canadian Forces or a Province or Territory at the time of the adoption.

As well, adopted persons who become Canadian citizens through the citizenship by adoption process will not be able to pass on their citizenship to any children they have outside Canada on or after April 17, 2009, nor will any child they adopt outside Canada on or after April 17, 2009, be eligible to obtain Canadian citizenship through this process.

Expatriate Adoptions

If Canadian citizens living abroad wish to adopt children, they will generally need to obtain a letter from their last province or territory of residence indicating that the foreign adoption, once completed, would be recognized in the province or territory should the family return to Canada.

Medical and Criminal Record Checks

People who are becoming citizens through adoption do not have to undergo a medical examination, criminal record check or security check.

Is the Adoption Bona Fide

As noted above, a Canadian cannot sponsor an adopted child under the age of eighteen unless the adoption was in the best interests of the child.   The Hague Convention on Adoption guides this definition.  As well, the adoption could not have been entered into primarily for the purposes of acquiring an immigration privilege.

An adoption is considered to be in the best interests of the child if it took place under the following circumstances:

  • A competent authority conducted or approved a home study of the adoptive parents;
  • Before the adoption, the child’s parents gave their free and informed consent to the child’s adoption;
  • The adoption created a genuine parent-child relationship;
  • The adoption was in accordance with the laws of the place where the adoption took place;
  • The adoption was in accordance with the laws of the province of landing, and the competent authority of the child’s province of intended destination has stated that it does not object to the adoption; and
  • The country in which the adoption took place and the child’s province of intended designation are parties to the Hague Convention of Adoption OR if either the country in which the adoption took place or the child’s province of intended destination is not a party to the Hague Convention of Adoption, then there is no evidence that the adoption is for the purpose of child trafficking or undue gain.

As the Federal Court of Canada noted in Kenne v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 1079, for the purpose of determining whether the adoption is in accordance with the laws of the place where the adoption took place, immigration officers should not base their conclusion solely on their own interpretation of the foreign law, and should consider any documentary evidence filed which explains it.

The words “genuine parent and child relationship” do not require that there existed a fully developed parent and child relationship between the adoptive parents and the children at the time of a sponsored application. More often than not, the genuine relationship is created as a result of the adoption. As such, as the Federal Court noted in Young v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 316, the mere fact that adoptive parents want to bring their adopted children with them to the country where they live is not a presumption that they are attempting to create an adoption of convenience:

Finally, as the Federal Court of Canada note in Mclawrence v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015-07-15, an adoptive parent’s intent of providing a better quality of life for an adopted child in Canada is a “legitimate goal” and not an indicator of mala fides: