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A family member living in the states is considering a move to Canada. He has rights to apply for citizenship there in an expedited manner, since he is descended from a Canadian citizen. He has been to Canada as a tourist many times.

When we talked about his move, he said that only people who have approval from the U.S. government are allowed to move long-term to Canada.

That sounds like a de facto exit visa -- a concept that the U.S. has always proudly renounced. (For example, when people were sneaking out of East Germany, people in the west took great pride in not having the draconian exit limitations that East Germans faced in their country.)

Is there a documented policy on the part of the Canadian government that limits entry, residency and/or citizenship to people with a U.S. "stamp of approval" of some sort?

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No this is absolutely not true.

I know many Americans who have moved to Canada long term, and become Canadian citizens. Not one of them had to ask permission of the US government. Among other pieces of evidence, consider the huge number of people who moved to Canada to avoid the US draft in the 60s and 70s. If permission had been required they would not have been allowed to leave.

Likewise Canada has no policy of requiring permission from the US before admitting US citizens for any length of time, or before making them Canadian citizens. They may possibly consult with US authorities before granting long term residence, but this would be only on matters like criminal records or threats to national security. And it is entirely at Canada's discretion what use they make of the information. Canada does not require someone to renounce a US citizenship before becoming a Canadian citizen.

Note that if your family member is descended from Canadians closely enough, e.g. if one of their parents was born in Canada, then that person may already be a Canadian citizen.

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  • Thanks! This was a good explanation.
    – Patrick
    Aug 3 '20 at 10:57
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As DJClayworth's answer -- which I have upvoted and accepted as the right answer -- says, the United States cannot officially keep people from going to Canada, but "national security" can be a fairly large exception to the rule.

For an example of how this loophole can be exploited, I googled around and found this story of peace activists being denied entry because they were on a U.S. list of dissenters arrested for protesting:

https://www.politico.com/blogs/politico-now/2007/10/anti-war-activists-stopped-at-canadian-border-003467

Since my relative has been an anti-war protestor in the U.S. in the past, he may or may not be denied entry to Canada at some future time, based on his activities in the American Midwest.

(I don't think he's ever been arrested for protesting, so probably not, but you never know.)

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  • In Canadian terms they were stopped because they had a criminal record. If your family member has never been arrested they are almost certainly OK. And if they have visited Canada and got in, then even more so. Aug 3 '20 at 12:41
  • The question asked if US government's permission is needed for a US citizen to also become a Canadian citizen. This does not answer that question, as it concerns US citizens who were denied entry at the Canadian border. Denial of entry is Canada's prerogative, as is Canadian citizenship, and while Canada's decisions may be affected by US information shared with Canada, the Canadian decisions neither require nor depend upon a US-issued "permission." Aug 3 '20 at 14:02
  • Good point, DavidSupportsMonica. I guess it depends on how automated the process of denial is. I would love to see numbers on how often these types of national security flags are allowed to turn into rejections. If it's 45% of the time, that shows a lot more sovereignty and judgment on Canada's part than if it's 99% of the time.
    – Patrick
    Aug 4 '20 at 11:18

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