From 1763 until the Canadian Citizenship Act came into force on January 1, 1947, people born in Canada were all British subjects. Since immigrants born in Great Britain and the Commonwealth were already British subjects, they had no need to become naturalized or to obtain British citizenship in Canada.
A number of earlier laws governed naturalization before 1947. Under these acts, aliens could petition for naturalization. If successful, they would swear allegiance to the British sovereign and would be granted the rights of someone born within the British Empire. These acts include:
- The Local Act also known as Law of Naturalization and Allegiance implemented on May 22, 1868.
- The Naturalization and Aliens Act of 1881 by which the Secretary of State was empowered to issue naturalization certificates to government employees. All other requests for naturalization were handled by provincial courts.
- The Naturalization Act of 1914 which gave full responsibility for the issuance of naturalization certificates to the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration, implemented in 1916.
In order to apply for citizenship, a person had to have resided in Canada for a minimum number of years since his or her time of entry.
- From 22 May 1868 to 20 March 1881: 2 years
- From 21 March 1881 to 6 June 1919: 3 years
- From 7 June 1919 to 14 February 1977: 5 years
- From 15 February 1977 to present: 3 years
Naturalization Records Held by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada holds records of naturalization and citizenship from 1854 to the present.
The originals of records dated between 1854 and 1917 have been destroyed. However, a card index by name has survived, which provides information compiled at the time of naturalization, such as:
- present and former place of residence;
- former nationality;
- date of certification; and
- name and location of the responsible court.
The index rarely contains any other genealogical information. Please note that Library and Archives Canada does not hold a copy of that card index.
Records created after 1917 are more detailed, indicating:
- given name;
- date and place of birth;
- entry into Canada; and
- names of spouses and children.
The file will typically include the original petition for naturalization, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report on the person, the oath of allegiance, and any other documents.
Requests for searches of naturalization/citizenship indexes and records from 1854 to the present should be signed and mailed to:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
Access to Information and Privacy Division
Ottawa, ON K1A 1L1
Please note that the following conditions apply:
- The application for copies of records should indicate that it is being requested under Access to Information. It must be submitted by a Canadian citizen or an individual residing in Canada. For non-citizens, you can hire a freelance researcher to make the request on your behalf. Fee: $5.00, payable to the Receiver General for Canada.
- The request must be accompanied by a signed consent from the person concerned or proof that he/she has been deceased 20 years.
Proof of death can be a copy of a death record, a newspaper obituary or a photograph of the gravestone showing name and death date.
Please note that IRCC requires proof of death regardless of the person’s year of birth.
Your request should include the full name, date and place of birth, and if possible, the Canadian citizenship number or naturalization certificate number.
Important Note: To request a search of your own records for proof of your status or to obtain a citizenship certificate, you must submit an Application for a Search of Citizenship Records or an Application for a Citizenship Certificate to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Many Provincial and Territorial Archives hold records relating to citizenship and naturalization.