In June 2014, Bill C-24 passed and the Strengthening
Canadian Citizenship Act came into force. The bill marked the
most significant changes to Canada's citizenship laws since
1977. Some of the changes came into effect in the summer of 2014
and the rest we expect will be implemented sometime in 2015. The
government hasn't said when, exactly.
The intent behind Bill C-24 is to increase the efficiency of the
citizenship application processing system (which currently has
significant backlogs and wait times of two to four years, or more,
to obtain citizenship), to strengthen the integrity of the program
and to strengthen the requirements to become a citizen. CIC says
that is has already reduced its backlog by 22% since June 2014.
Changes Already in
Changes Coming in
New definition of the first
generation limit on citizenship for those born outside of
Providing the Immigration Minister
with discretionary decision-making authority for citizenship
New stream-lined decision making
process, including new judicial review and appeals processes
Fast-tracked applications for members
of the Canadian Armed Forces
Stricter residence requirement
New intent to reside requirement
New age requirement for language and
Stricter offences and penalties for
fraud and misrepresentations
New prohibitions for foreign criminal
Extending citizenship to "lost
Canadians" and their children born outside of Canada, who were
not eligible under the Citizenship Act of 1947
Extending citizenship to second
generation children of Canadians outside of Canada serving the
New grounds and process for revoking
What are the biggest impacts to come for Canadian permanent
residents who want to become citizens, and those born outside of
Canada with claims to citizenship?
1) New residence rules. Instead of having to
prove physical residence in Canada for three out of four years,
applicants will need to prove that they were physically present in
Canada for four out of six years. They will also have to show that
they were physically present in Canada for at least 183 days per
year for each of those four years. Time spent in Canada before
becoming a permanent resident will not be counted toward the
residence requirement. Under current law, applicants can use some
days spent in Canada as a permanent resident as a half day of
residence in their application.
2) Intent to reside. Applicants will have to
declare their intent to reside in Canada during the application and
indicate that they plan to make Canada their permanent home.
3) Language and knowledge testing. Citizenship
applicants between 14-64 years of age will have to submit proof of
proficiency in either English or French, and take the citizenship
knowledge test. Currently, the age range is 18-54 years.
4) Tax implications. Applicants would have to
file Canadian taxes if required by the Income Tax Act.
5) Citizenship by descent. Individuals born
outside of Canada with at least one parent with Canadian
citizenship at the time of their birth are able to obtain
citizenship. This does not apply to the second generation born
outside of Canada. The rules will be expanded to include children
of individuals born outside of Canada while their Canadian
parent(s) were serving the government or in the Canadian Armed
Forces. In other words, citizenship will pass on to the second
generation of children in these cases.
For those thinking of applying for citizenship, the process will
be easier under the current rules and we do not know exactly when
the new ones will come into play. Applicants are encouraged to get
their applications in as soon as they can to avoid stricter rules
down the road. Regardless of when you apply, it is important to
know the rules that will impact your application and when they come
It is also imperative for foreign nationals in Canada to think
about their path to permanent residence and citizenship as early as
possible, and to accurately document time spent in Canada as this
will be helpful later in the citizenship process.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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