Today, I begin my new life as an official Canadian passport holder!! But what about my global-nomad grandkids??

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada requests, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow [Ben Byerly] to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford [Ben Byerly] such assistance and protection as may be necessary.

Le ministre des Affaires étrangères du Canada, au nom de La Majesté la Reine, prie les autorités intéressées de bien vouloir accorder libre passage au [Ben Byerly] de même que l’aide et la protection dont il aurait besoin

Canadian Flag So to all my Canadian friends who have called me a pseudo-Canadian for so long (I’ve never actually lived in Canada, only visited relatives), it’s official. In the year before I turn 40, I finally have in my possession a bona fide Canadian passport; I picked it up today. It’s about time! I was born and raised [mostly in Africa] by an American father and a Canadian mother. My dad was a little too patriotic, so we never filed the Canadian paperwork. In my mid-twenties a close friend of mine, got his Canadian passport to travel to Egypt. I figured that since the Canadian embassy was within walking distance of our Washington, DC home, I didn’t have any excuses. Mine was a little more complicated, and before I was given my citizenship grant, we’d had one kid and moved to Paris. For one reason or another (mainly because I hadn’t lived in one place long enough to be able to have a Canadian lawyer, doctor, banker, etc. to vouch for me), I never finished the passport application.

I had been thinking I’d wait until the dissertation was done to get into all the bureaucratic paperwork, but last month, my friend Brian told me that the Canadian laws were changing on April 17, and children of Canadians like me wouldn’t automatically be granted citizenship if they were born abroad. (Brian is a New Zealander married to a French Canadian UN lawyer. We became good friends in Paris, and they just moved to Nairobi this year – meaning I had a Canadian lawyer within the jurisdiction that had known me for more than two years.)

Our main concern is that our kids have the option of living, working, and going to Canadian universities if they want to, so I jumped on the applications to get them in before the law went into effect. I was told that it would take over a year for their applications to be processed.

Today, I ran the test of citizenship (under the new law) for my kids:, and it looks like my youngest two kids are clearly Canadian. Even though they were born in Paris and Nairobi, I had my proof of my citizenship before they were born. The status of my oldest is a bit “iffy.” She was born in Washington, DC before the citizenship grant.

Identity for a third culture kid (TCK) can be complicated. Fortunately for my children, their mother was born and raised in the US. She has what I call “stable citizenship.” When we got the passport for Liam (born in Kenya), we listed her years in the US rather than trying to piece together my complex timeline. Two of my three children have been born abroad. As long as they marry people with “stable citizenship,” their kids should be okay.

But let’s say that they decide to go to an African, European, or Asian university and marry another “global nomad.”

. . .  those foreign-born children of Canadians will not be able to bestow that same citizenship on their own children should they also decide to adopt or give birth outside Canada.

Children born to American parents abroad can become citizens if both parents are American and at least one of the parents lived in the United States before the birth. If only one parent is American, the citizenship can be passed to the children if that parent lived in the United States for five years before the birth and at least two of those years occurred after the parent turned 14.

As far as their children’s (my grandchildren’s) Canadian citizen status goes, a Canadian expat blog has this to say about new Canadian law:

“. . . children born in another country after the new law comes into effect will not be Canadian citizens by birth if they were born outside Canada to a Canadian parent who was also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent.”

Government bafflegab to be sure but essentially, it means that if you had your child abroad and gave him/her your Canadian citizenship, after April 17th, that same child cannot give their children the same Canadian citizenship unless they are born in Canada (and a few other rules thrown in for good measure). Given that a high percentage of children of expats are born abroad and TCKs have a propensity for living and working abroad in adulthood, there’s a pretty good chance your grandchildren (if you’re old like me) or your children (if you are a TCK reading this) will also be born outside of Canada.

Read more of the Canadian expat blog entry, but the TEST itself doesn’t seem to be as worrying.


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Something about people who have grown up abroad; the instant connection between TCKs

Sometimes I pick out totally random things from a news article. For example:

Obama got to know Geithner “during the final weeks of the campaign,” said the senior Obama aide, and the two hit it off immediately. Like Obama, Geithner had partly grown up abroad, and this gave the two an immediate connection. It led to “an ease in conversation,” and the two discovered they “also share a common temperament,” including a calm demeanor and a curiosity about the thinking of others.

– E.J. Dionne Obama’s brain trust (Washington Post)

Obviously, these guys are in a totally different league – very different from me, but this brief description resonated with me. There’s something about growing up abroad that gives you a certain connection and shapes you  in certain ways (of course all stereotypes are problematic). I wonder if the calm demeanor might originate from trying to blend in places where you feel out of place. Those who know me well, especially Christi, know that the “calm demeanor” can be a huge facade.

The curiosity about what other’s think is definitely a part of me. I wonder if that comes from having to learn how to navigate new cultural worlds where the “rules” aren’t so obvious; you have to be curious just to figure out what’s going on; it’s a survival technique.


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