Canada’s Dual Citizens: Many “Pros,” But a Few Cautions

As Canada becomes more culturally diversified (almost one million Canadian citizens are also citizens of other countries), international travel requires increasing care and attention to detail.

For example, in 2016, the Canadian government imposed a rule requiring all Canadian citizens who were also citizens of other countries to have Canadian passports when entering by air. (Canadian/US “duals” were exempted). The rule ruffled a few feathers, particularly among Canadians who had been living abroad for many years and had to scurry about trying to get passports just so they could visit family and friends “back home.”

In addition, Canada is one of the most welcoming nations for citizens of other countries who wish to be permanent residents—which means, if they are successful in obtaining PR status, they have virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of citizens, except the right to vote, or run for elected office. But they are also required to spend a certain amount of time in Canada until they can win their actual citizenship, and PR doesn’t entitle them to a Canadian passport. So if they intend to travel internationally while in Canada, they will need to use their national passport, which may be problematic when trying to enter another country—such as the U.S. Be prepared. (For more information visit the government of Canada’s website.)

Canada is most generous in allowing citizens of other countries to apply for and enjoy Canadian citizenship. But though Canada allows dual citizenship, not all countries do, and so if you are a “dual,” you need to be watchful of the rules applied by your “other” country even if you only visit it periodically as it can assert claims on you, such as demanding you pay taxes or enroll for military service. And if that happens while you are in that country, there is nothing your Canadian embassy or consulate there can do for you. You are then effectively under the control of that country as one of its citizens.

Given the growing international tensions abroad—in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific countries—you need to know not only the advantages of dual citizenship, but some of these potential pitfalls.

I often get asked by “duals” who also hold passports for say, Britain, Germany, the Philippines, etc., how long Canada will “allow” them to spend time in their “other” homes before they have to return. I give them the good news that once they are Canadian citizens (by birth or naturalization) they remain so forever, unless they choose to divest themselves of that great privilege, and they can stay out as long as they wish and return when they wish.

The only catch is that, on their return to Canada, they may have to wait for three months in their chosen province of residency before their provincial health insurance is reinstated.

I also often get asked by “duals” if they need private health insurance to visit their former home. The answer is invariably “yes.” Health insurance is not free anywhere.

You may have paid into England’s NHS or Germany’s Krankenkassen all your working life while living there, but these won’t cover you for a visit once you have left the country—not legally anyway.

If visiting your former “home”, or any other foreign country for that matter, you will have to carry private insurance for short visits (your provincial plan won’t suffice). And if you plan on staying for longer than 90 days, you will have to either carry a full health insurance (expatriate) plan privately purchased with you, or possibly enroll in the national plan(s) of that country. Those rules vary from country to country.

In Canada, there are some excellent expatriate plans that offer such long-term coverage (also good for students or employees posted abroad), so make sure you examine them and also learn all of the details of any national plans for which you qualify.

There are choices. But one thing you can be sure of: there is no free lunch, be it at an outdoor café in Budapest or in a hospital room overlooking the Danube.


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