Canadian Dual Citizenship: What you need to know

Canadian Dual Citizenship: What you need to know

Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati

Canadian American Dual Citizenship
What is dual citizenship?
Travelling with two passports
How do I get dual citizenship?
Why would I want dual citizenship?

I’m a dual citizen. Do I still need a Canadian passport?

All Canadians with dual citizenship must carry their Canadian passport to enter the country, whether it is your final destination or you are connecting through Canada.

A valid Canadian passport (or a Canadian temporary passport, or a Canadian emergency travel document) is required to board your flight to Canada. (American-Canadians are the exception and may travel into Canada with just their American passport.)

I didn’t need one before. Why did this change?

Before, dual citizens from a visa exempt country (like France or Germany), did not need a Canadian passport to enter Canada, but could use their other passport. Now they do. This change was put into effect November 10, 2016 to ensure Canadian passengers have appropriate travel documents before entering the country. Due to increased security precautions, a new Government of Canada electronic system will automatically verify you have a valid Canadian passport upon check-in. This way, check-in staff and security can verify you are a citizen and therefore have the right to enter the country without immigration screening. As always, you want to make sure your passport is valid well beyond your intended stay in destination (some destinations have particular lengths of time, so check with your travel agent).

Canadian/American Dual Citizenship 

Canadian-American citizens are the exception to the rule. You do not need a Canadian passport (or visa, or Electronic Travel Authorization) IF you have a valid US passport to travel to Canada. You still need to meet the basic requirements to enter Canada: which include being in good health, having enough money to travel, and having no criminal convictions, among others) AND you must carry also proper identification (like a valid driver’s license issued by a Canadian province or territory).

What is dual citizenship?

Dual citizenship is when more than one country recognizes you as a citizen. Canada allows its citizens to keep their Canadian citizenship and take on foreign citizenship. But dual citizenship is not legally recognized in all countries like it is here in Canada. If you originate from a foreign country and are unsure about its rules on dual citizenship, ask the embassy or consulate first. Some countries forbid dual citizenship (you forfeit your original when you take another) and others allow it only until a certain age (usually 21), at which point you must choose. Some grant dual citizenship under special circumstances.

Travelling with two passports 


-Always carry both passports with you when you travel

-Always present yourself in your home country with that country’s passport and ensure both documents are valid. This way, they recognize that you are a citizen and you are not treated like as visitor and granted a visa. People can end up “overstaying their stay” in a country where they are a citizen, because they did not present themselves as such.  If you are entering a country you belong to, use that country’s passport.

-Always exit the country with the same passport you entered with. Each time you enter and exit Canada, show your Canadian passport.

-Show the proper passport all the way through the travel process. (Ensure your name is the same on both passports.)

When you book your trip:

Purchase your plane ticket with the passport you plan on entering the country with. For example, if you carry both a Canadian and Italian passport and are travelling to Italy, it makes sense to use your Italian passport. But if you are travelling to Brazil, it still makes sense to book your ticket with your Italian passport since the Canadian entry requirement for Brazil is obtaining a visa (which comes at a cost) while Italy is a visa-exempt country. (Visas are not required for Italian citizens visiting Brazil for tourist purposes for less than 90 days.) If you are travelling throughout Europe, it makes sense to use your European Passport and avoid the “foreigner” lines at the airport. Determine which passport is more beneficial to you for that specific journey and use that one.

If you are not using your Canadian passport, here is what the process could look like:

At the airport:

1. Check-In: Check in with the passport you booked your ticket with. This is the information that will be on airport records. (Foreign)

2. Departure Immigration: Show the passport of where you currently reside. (Canadian)

3. Arrival Immigration: When you arrive in destination, show the passport you booked your ticket with so it matches the information the airline has. (Foreign)

1. Check in to return home:  Check in with the passport that allows you back into your home country. (Canadian)

2. Departure Immigration (in destination): Show the passport you booked your trip with so it matches.  (Foreign)

3. Arrival Immigration: When you arrive back in Canada, show the passport you checked-in with. (Canadian)

You would present your European passport when you registered with the airlines (and checked your bags) and when you entered the foreign country. BUT, you can present your Canadian passport to airport security as you leave to show them you are in fact, Canadian.

Basically, the rule is: Show the airline the passport of the country you’re going to and immigration the passport for the country you’re in. The airline wants to ensure the passport you checked in with is the one you booked your flight with. Immigration wants to ensure you have been in that country legally. If you are a citizen of that country, show immigration that passport.

Airport Security

Should I be worried about carrying two passports?

It is safe and legal to carry two passports. You don’t have to tell the Canadian clerk that you’re Italian and the Italian clerk that you’re Canadian. Just remember to show the right passport.

If you happen to pull out the wrong one, there may be some questioning and confusion until they realize you have dual citizenship.

Think about it this way — Show whichever passport makes sense: whichever one means you can go into the “fast lane,” avoid visa fees, and shows you are a citizen of that country.

Be honest and remember that you are still the same person with two passports. Your name and date of birth all match up.

How do I get dual citizenship?

Dual citizenship can be obtained through a legal process or birthright.

People can become dual citizens if they were born in one country and moved to another, and eventually obtained a new country’s citizenship while keeping their original. You may also acquire dual nationality by marriage.

Other times, a country will grant you citizenship if your parents, grandparents or even great grandparents were citizens of that country, or if you were born on that soil, regardless of your parents.

Some countries allow dual nationality if by birthright, and not by acquisition.

Why would I want dual citizenship?

If your country allows dual citizenship, there is no reason to denounce your original citizenship.


The main reason applies for people who want to travel around: You can travel to more countries without needing a visa (or pay other fees), which can be expensive and take weeks or months to arrive. Having dual citizenship allows you to keep both ties to your other country:

-You can visit as long as you want, live and work in the country

-You may be able to open a bank account, purchase real estate, and have access to health insurance and education

-You have the choice to go to multiple embassies if you ever need assistance in a country where you don’t hold citizenship

-You have two choices if there is political conflict and one country isn’t liked by the other (which usually isn’t the case for Canadians)

-If you hold a European Union passport, you can stay in any country that is part of the union for as long as you want

-If you showed your Canadian passport you would be sent to a foreigner line at check-points when travelling within Europe instead of the shorter line


Keep in mind: Dual citizenship means you may be legally required to adhere to the laws and regulations of the other country should you travel there, such as taxes, military service, or educational costs.

We recommend contacting the embassy or consulate of that country here in Canada before you travel to confirm in writing whether you have obligations to your other country of citizenship before visiting.

It may also limit you if you want to work in a sensitive position with the government.

If you are in a country of citizenship and in trouble, the other country may not be able to weigh in as much.


How to renew or apply for a passport:


  1. I would like to know if I am a dual citizen of Canada and the US. And if how do I do that. I live in the US but was born in Canada.

  2. My son was born in Canada but me and his father are jamaican-so am wondering should I look about a jamaican or Canadian passport in order for him to travel to Jamaica?

    • Please reach out to your travel agent and they can advise.

  3. As a dual citizen of Canada and the US do I have to let the border know if I plan to stay longer than I said originally or not to worry since I can generally travel at free will between the two?

  4. As a dual citizen of Australia and Canada (reside in Australia) do I need a canadian passport to enter Canada via the US

  5. I have dual citizenship ( Canada and Portugal), lived mostly in Canada, my question is am I able to receive my pensions in Portugal when I live there permanently?

  6. I was born in Philippines and became a Canadian Citizen in 2018. Do I still have to apply for dual citizenship or am I automatically a dual citizen by birth right?

  7. According to this page you can obtain citizenship, it’s your birthright. I suggest you contact the Canadian Consulate to find out what steps you need to take.

  8. I am a citizen of the USA. I am 68 years old and am very upset about the direction of this country. I love Canada and my Dad was born in Halifax NS. (He was born in 1920 and is no longer alive). He moved to Boston when he was 9. His parents were from Newfoundland. I may want to relocate to Canada and need to know about health care and everything that needs to be done. Maybe I will purchase a home. I have 2 sisters who also may be interested.

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