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.