“I have an unusual question, I think. My mother was born in Canada in the 1950s, and lived there for the first eight years of her life before returning to Ireland with her family. I have never been to Canada and to be honest I don’t want to really go. My hoped-for destination is New York. As far as I am aware, because my mother is Canadian I should be Canadian as well. Will this fact help me at all in my quest to become American? I have friends living over there illegally, and that’s not something I want to do. I suppose I could try Canada, though, and presume I’d be legal there and therefore employable?”
Interesting questions. Canadian citizenship law, like American, Irish and many other nationalities, makes provisions for those born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent(s).
Though there were changes in Canadian citizenship law earlier this year, none of them affect your entitlement to automatic Canadian citizenship at birth.
Here’s the relevant law that makes you Canadian, even though you weren’t born there – citizenship can be automatically acquired by those born in another country after February 14, 1977, with one parent a Canadian citizen at the time of birth.
You should contact the Canadian Embassy in Dublin to formalize your citizenship and obtain a Canadian passport, if you eventually decide to travel there. As a citizen you will enjoy all the rights that other Canadians have, including legal employment and ability to travel abroad.
Which brings us to your real question . . . does being Canadian bring you a step closer to becoming American? Yes and no is the short answer.
Under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and qualified Canadian citizens can benefit from quickened admission into the U.S. and Mexico for business purposes. NAFTA does not, however, put Canadians on a fast track to either a green card through legal permanent residence, or U.S. citizenship.
NAFTA is a massive trade deal that came into being in 1994. It was designed to remove most barriers to trade and investment among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and to ease the flow of qualified temporary workers between the neighboring countries.
In order to legally work and reside in the U.S. under the work provisions of NAFTA, an applicant has to be either a citizen of Mexico or Canada; the profession must be on the NAFTA list; the position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional; a U.S. employer must be the beneficiary of the position on offer (in other words, no self-employment); and the applicant must possess the qualifications of the position.
NAFTA professionals enter the U.S. on what’s known as a TN visa. However, Canadian citizens do not normally even need to apply for a TN visa. They can present themselves at the U.S. border with a number of pieces of documentation, including an employment letter, proof of qualifications, and proof of Canadian citizenship, among other requirements.
There are a broad range of NAFTA-approved professions, including architects, graphic designers, social workers and teachers. For a list of professions, and the qualifications attached to each, visit http://www.consular.canada.usembassy.gov/nafta_professions.asp.
NAFTA requirements are clearly outlined on the State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html#3. Its intricacies would be best discussed with a consular official from the American or Canadian embassies.