Special authorization and its alternatives for Canadian dual citizens
Sophi is a dual citizen of Canada and France. She recently became a Canadian citizen but urgently had to travel back to France. Now that she wants to travel back to Canada, she may not use her French passport as she is not eligible for an eTA. Sophi is a Canadian citizen, after all. Consequently, she is seeking special authorization to return.
Introduction: the importance of a valid Canadian passport for travel
Thanks to the Mobility rights under the Constitution Act of 1982, Canadians have the right to enter Canada. However, how can you prove you are a Canadian? Any identification could do the job if you show up at a port of entry. However, when you travel by air, train or ship, the transportation company needs proof that you can travel to Canada. A Canadian passport is the best tool to establish your identity and citizenship.
Other documents, such as a Canadian Citizenship Card (not available to recently naturalized Canadians), a Canadian birth certificate, or a Citizenship Certificate, could reflect your citizenship. Nonetheless, they are not widely recognized. Therefore, your best bet is to show your valid Canadian passport when confirming your identity and citizenship.
What is special authorization? An overview
In the past, Canadian dual citizens of visa-exempt countries could freely travel to Canada with their other passports. For example, if you were a French citizen. You could also travel to Canada with your French passport despite being a Canadian citizen. However, this changed in 2016 when Canada introduced eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) for most visa-exempt countries. As a French citizen, you must now apply for an eTA to travel to Canada.
Nonetheless, you may not apply for an eTA as a Canadian citizen. What should you do then? There are two primary solutions:
- Recommended – Get a Canadian passport
- Alternative – Get a special authorization
The latter is not always available, so it is in your best interest to apply for a Canadian passport as soon as possible.
Do US-Canadian dual citizens need a Canadian passport or special authorization?
Since American citizens do not need a visa or eTA to travel to Canada, they may use their passports. In other words, US citizens are exempt from the requirement of a Canadian passport or special authorization, even if they are Canadian citizens. However, at the port of entry, they may still need to establish their Canadian citizenship for the following reasons:
- The right to enter Canada without any issues
- To overcome potential inadmissibility to Canada (e.g., because of a criminal history in the US)
- To remain in Canada for as long as they want
- To verify their right to work or study in Canada
Because of these reasons, it is in the best interest of US-Canada dual citizens to also get a Canadian passport. However, consider the following:
- I am not an expert in the field of American immigration rules. Make sure to follow them as well.
- This group is not eligible for special authorization.
What is special authorization?
A special authorization is an electronic letter from the Canadian authorities. You must carry an electronic or print copy with your visa-exempt passport when boarding a vehicle destined for Canada. You also need other documents that prove you are a Canadian. The following image shows the recommendations by IRCC.
Please note that this option is only available to those dual citizens whose other citizenship is visa-exempt.
Eligibility criteria for special authorization
The recommended permanent solution is to get a Canadian passport. However, you may apply for special authorization if you meet all the following criteria:
- Don’t have a Canadian passport valid for your travel day.
- Your flight to Canada departs in fewer than ten days.
- Possess a valid passport from a country that doesn’t require a visa for Canada.
- You are not a dual citizen of Canada and the United States.
Also, you must meet at least one of the following conditions:
- Previously obtained a Canadian citizenship certificate, or
- Used to have a Canadian passport, or
- You became a Canadian citizen after being a permanent resident in Canada.
Applying for special authorization: a step-by-step guide
To apply, take the following steps:
- Have your current passport from a visa-exempt country next to you. Furthermore, if you have a document that proves your Canadian citizenship, make sure to have them next to you.
- Click here and locate the following button. It is close to the bottom of the page.
- A message box appears. Read it carefully and then click “Continue to special authorization request.”
- Enter your passport and travel information.
- Under the Additional Comments text, you may add the following information (optional):
- Explaining the urgency of your request
- Mentioning essential information that helps authorities confirm your Canadian citizenship (e.g., your UCI)
- Click the consent checkbox. Enter your name as the signature. Click “Submit.”
You must submit this form in less than ten days before your flight. Since the processing could take time, do your best to submit the form closer to the ten-day limit.
Alternative routes: emergency or regular passports
Special authorization is a band-aid solution. Moreover, sometimes you do not qualify. Here are some examples:
- You are a citizen of a visa-required country
- Your flight is more than ten days from now
To overcome the problem, you’d better apply for a Canadian passport. If you are outside Canada and need a passport urgently, you may email [email protected] or fill out the Emergency contact form. You could alternatively use one of the following phone options:
Please note that these contact information are not for immigration matters. Only call them if you need assistance receiving a Canadian passport outside Canada.
Canadian authorities sometimes issue an eight-page temporary passport for you to facilitate your travel. Such passports expire in a year or less. Therefore, in such situations, you must apply for a regular passport as soon as possible.
Let us help!
If you need assistance in obtaining special authorization, please book a consultation session with me. Alternatively, you may contact us or fill out the following form if you are facing immigration issues.
Would you please fill out our free assessment form if you wish to visit or move to Canada? We will review it for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal immigration advice from a licensed practitioner.
Al ParsaiAl Parsai, LLM, MA, RCIC-IRB
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada
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