Applications for Canadian citizenship increase after government eases language and residency rules

There has been an increase in applications for Canadian citizenship after the government relaxed rules regarding residency requirements and language proficiency this fall.

Immigration, refugee and citizenship figures provided to CBC News show there were an average of 3,653 applications per week in the six months before the changes were introduced on October 11.

The number soared to 17,500 applications the week after the new requirements took effect. 12,530 applications were submitted the following week, but data for subsequent weeks is not yet available.

“Reducing the physical presence requirement gives applicants more flexibility to meet citizenship requirements and encourages more immigrants to take the citizenship path,” said the Immigration, Refugees and Refugees spokesperson. Citizenship, Nancy Caron. “It helps people who have already started building their lives in Canada get citizenship faster.”

In recent years, an average of 200,000 citizenship applications have been submitted each year.

Fluctuations in application rates are expected after the rule changes, so the department has put resources in place to manage “surge capacity” and keep processing times below the 12-month service standard, Caron said.

Andrew Griffith, a former top immigration official, author and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said it was too early to tell whether the rise in numbers represented a blip or was part of a trend towards higher long term. But he believes an increased rate of citizenship promotes social cohesion and eases community tensions, as immigrants have a deeper connection to the country and Canadian society.

“Journey of integration”

“We want people to become citizens because we believe that’s part of the integration journey,” he said. “It helps them feel part of Canada, and ultimately it should improve all of the country’s economic, social and political outcomes.”

The new rules include:

  • The required length of physical presence in Canada is reduced to three out of five years, from four out of six years.
  • A portion of the time spent in Canada before obtaining permanent resident status will count towards residency requirements, giving credit to temporary workers and students.
  • The age range for language and knowledge requirements is reduced to 18-54, from the previous requirement of 14-64.

But Griffith said high fees remained a barrier for some to apply for citizenship, especially those in the family reunification or financially strained refugee categories.

Increase in processing fees

Processing fees increased to $630 in 2014-2015, which includes a $100 “right of citizenship” fee. This is still significantly less than the fees in the UK, US and the Netherlands, but it is higher than in New Zealand, Germany, Australia and France.

Griffith said the cost reduction would reflect the fact that promoting citizenship not only provides a personal benefit, but a benefit to Canadian society as a whole when people can participate fully, including in the political process.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who marked the entry into force of the changes at an event in October, said they would make the path to joining the “Canadian family” easier and more flexible.

“As a country that is committed to the successful settlement and integration of newcomers so that they can start their lives over and contribute to our society, we must secure the pathway to citizenship for permanent residents. “, he said at the time.

People may be considered ineligible for Canadian citizenship if they have a criminal record or face charges in Canada or abroad, or if their citizenship has been denied or revoked in the past.