Canada to Change Citizenship Requirements

On February 6, 2014 the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-24, The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. If passed, Bill C-24 will significantly change the requirements for Canadian citizenship.  Prospective citizenship applicants who may not meet the new requirements once Bill C-24 passes are encouraged to apply for Canadian citizenship as soon as possible.  The new residency provisions described below will come into effect on June 11, 2015.

The following is a summary of the main changes that the Government of Canada is introducing.

Residence and other Basic Requirements

Under Canada’s current system, a permanent resident can apply for Canadian citizenship if he/she has resided in Canada for three out of the four years preceding the citizenship application.  Because the definition of “residence” is not defined, it has been possible for permanent residents who have not been physically present in Canada for three out of four years to obtain citizenship if they could show substantial ties to Canada.

As well, each day that an applicant lawfully resides in Canada before becoming a permanent resident counts as a half-day towards the residency requirement.   This means that many people can apply for citizenship 2 years after obtaining permanent resident status.

Finally, Canada’s current citizenship requirements do not require permanent residents to have an “intention to reside in Canada” once they are granted citizenship.  Indeed, it is not uncommon for citizenship applicants to apply for citizenship and then leave Canada during the entirety of the processing of their application.

Under the proposed system, a permanent resident will be able to apply for Canadian citizenship if he/she has been physically present in Canada for four out of the six years preceding the citizenship application, rather than three out of four.  Applicants will also be required to have a minimum of 183 days of physical presence per year in four out of the six years preceding the application. Only the time that someone is physically present in Canada will count towards both residency requirements.

As well, time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident will no longer count towards the residency requirement.

Bill C-24 will also introduce the requirement that citizenship applicants demonstrate an “intention to reside in Canada” after they are granted citizenship.  Applicants must maintain this intention during the processing of their citizenship applications.

Finally, permanent residents must have filed Canadian income taxes as required under the Income Tax Act to be eligible for citizenship.

Fees

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is increasing the adult application from $100.00 to $300.00.  As well, there will be a $100.00 right of citizenship fee.

Citizenship and Language Test

Under the current system, adults aged 18-54 must meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test.  Applicants can use an interpreter for the knowledge test.

Under the proposed system, applicants aged 14-64 will be required to meet the language requirements and pass a knowledge test. As well, applicants may no longer use an interpreter for the knowledge test.

Bars to Citizenship 

Under Canada’s current system, people cannot be granted citizenship if:

  • they are under a probation order, a paroled inmate, or imprisoned in Canada;
  • during the three year period immediately preceding the date of a person’s citizenship application, or during the processing of a citizenship application, they are convicted of an indictable offence under any Canadian Act of Parliament; or
  • they are charged with an offence, on trial for, or are party to an appeal, relating to an indictable offence under any Act of Parliament in Canada.

Under the proposed system, people cannot be granted citizenship if:

  • they are under a probation order, a paroled inmate, or imprisoned in Canada, or, in most cases, if they are serving a sentence outside of Canada;
  • during the four year period immediately preceding the date of a person’s citizenship application, or during the processing of a citizenship application, they are convicted of any offence under a Canadian Act of Parliament, or for most offences outside of Canada;
  • they are charged with an offence, on trial for, or are party to an appeal relating to any any offence under an Act of Parliament or for most offences outside of Canada;
  • they have been convicted of certain terrorism and military offences, or were members of an armed force or organized armed group that was engaged in armed conflict with Canada.

Citizenship Fraud

Currently, the fines and penalties for citizenship fraud are a maximum of $1,000 and/or one year in prison.

Under the proposed system, the fines and penalties for citizenship fraud will be a maximum $100,000 and/or five years in prison.

Revocation

In most situations, the current process to revoke citizenship takes three steps.  First, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) indicates an intention to revoke citizenship.  If the citizen challenges CIC, then Canada’s Federal Court will determine whether the government’s allegation is correct.  If the Federal Court affirms the government’s allegation, then the Governor in Council will decide whether to revoke citizenship.

Under the proposed system, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada may now unilaterally decide on routine revocation cases involving fraud and misrepresentation. Complex revocation cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity, security, international human rights violations, and organized criminality will be decided by Federal Court.

As well, Bill C-24 establishes the legal authority for the government to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens who have:

  • served as a member of an armed force or organized arm group that was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada;
  • been convicted of treason or spying offences and sentenced to imprisonment for life; or
  • been convicted of a terrorism offence and sentenced to five years or more imprisonment.

Armed Forces

The residency requirement will be reduced by one year for individuals on exchange who are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Consultants

There is currently no requirement that citizenship consultants be licensed.  Under the proposed system, consultants will be required to be registered with and regulated by a designated organization.

Lost Canadians 

Bill C-24 will give Canadian citizenship to individuals who were born or naturalized in Canada, as well as to those who were British subjects residing in Canada, prior to January 1, 1947, but who were previously not eligible for Canadian citizenship.  Their citizenship will be retroactive.

The children of these “Lost Canadians” who were born abroad in the first generation will also be given retroactive citizenship.

More information about Bill C-24 can be found here.

Bill C-24 can be found in its entirety here.


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