Citizenship and Birth Tourism

2012-03-05

Changes to Canada’s immigration law are now happening at an astonishing rate as compared to previous years.

Just recently, the Minister for Immigration announced that he may be revising rules around citizenship to curtail what is called “birth tourism”.

Currently, Canada’s citizenship rules are such that any person born on Canadian soil automatically receives Canadian citizenship (in fact, even a person born while flying through the air above Canada  also receives Canadian citizenship).

However, there have been reports of unscrupulous, so-called “consultants” who have been advising women in foreign countries to conceal their pregnancies, apply for a tourist visa (or other temporary visa), and give birth in Canada to ensure that their child received Canadian citizenship.

On top of that, hospitals have been reporting that foreign women who give birth here to give their child citizenship then leaving the country without having paid the (often substantial) medical bills.

Those are the justifications given by the government, however, there are some serious issues with regard to this contemplated change in policy.

There is no hard evidence of the numbers of people engaging in “birth tourism.” There is no doubt that is occuring, but without any hard numbers, it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction for such a fundamental policy change.

Canada and the USA are the only remaining countries that grant citizenship based on birth and for good reason in my view.

Granting citizenship upon birth in the country encourages immigration. Parents know that once they immigrate to Canada, their children will have a right to live here. There won’t be a risk (however remote) that their children would have to leave the only country they have ever known.

As a permanent resident, you simply do not have the certainty that a citizen has in terms of remaining in the country. This is a big factor for incoming immigrants – certainty of citizenship for their children.

To dispose of this rule without concrete knowledge of the problem or policy alternatives to deal with it seems a bit premature in my view.

It also goes against the tradition of Canada being a welcoming and tolerant country. There have been countless children born here, who have attained citizenship, and gone on to contribute in countless positive ways to our culture and society.

Let’s not cut them short without a thorough review of this important issue.

About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile

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