In a measure that will likely be of great benefit to immigrants to Canada who ultimately wish to obtain Canadian citizenship, the Liberal government of Canada has proposed a series of sweeping changes to the citizenship law. These changes will allow people who have made the decision to immigrate to Canada to apply for and obtain citizenship more quickly and easily than is currently the case.
Among the proposed changes is a reduction in the time permanent residents must live in Canada in order to apply for citizenship, from four out of six years to three out of five years. Additionally, some applicants who have spent time in Canada on temporary status may count some of that time toward the three-year requirement. The proposed amendments would also repeal the intent to reside provision and remove language proficiency requirements for certain applicants.
In addition, the new law would repeal a contentious provision that revoked the citizenship of dual Canadian citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. With a majority government in place, the proposals are expected to become law in the near future.
In June 2014, Canada’s previous Conservative government signed into law the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (also known as Bill C-24). This controversial legislation allowed the government to revoke citizenship in certain cases and made eligibility requirements for immigrants more onerous than before.
The current Liberal Party of Canada, which came to power last November, made a public commitment in its election manifesto to ‘repeal the unfair elements of Bill C-24 that create second-class citizens and the elements that make it harder for hard-working immigrants to become Canadian citizens.
Only a few months into its mandate, the government is now keeping its word.
Canada encourages new immigrants to consider becoming naturalized citizens and joining the Canadian family. With Canadian citizenship, a person can obtain a Canadian passport, vote in elections, run for public office, and leave and re-enter Canada freely without incurring residency obligations that permanent residents face.
What is changing?
The proposed changes to the citizenship law cover the gamut of the law, from how a person can become eligible for citizenship to the rights conferred once citizenship has been conferred on the person.
Repeal of revocation provision
Current act: Power to revoke citizenship for certain acts against the national interest of Canada. These grounds include convictions for terrorism, high treason, treason or espionage, depending on the sentence imposed, or for membership in an armed force or an organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict with Canada.
Proposed change: Repeal national interest grounds for revocation.
Repeal of intention to reside provision
Current Law: Applicants must intend to reside in Canada if granted citizenship.
Proposed change: Repeal the intention to reside provision.
Physical presence in Canada
Current act: Physical presence for 4 out of 6 years before the date of application.
Proposed change: Physical presence for 3 out of 5 years before the date of application.
Count temporary status
Current act: Time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident may not be counted.
Proposed change: Applicants can count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as half a day towards meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum of one year of credited time.
Less restrictive annual physical attendance requirement
Current act: Minimum of 183 days of physical presence in 4 of the last 6 years.
Proposed change: Repeal the minimum of 183 days of physical presence in 4 of the last 6 years.
Fewer people have to prove their language proficiency
Current act: Applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test.
Proposed change: Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test.
Canadian income tax
Current act: File Canadian income tax returns, if required to do so under the income tax lawfor four out of six tax years, corresponding to the physical presence requirement.
Proposed change: File Canadian income tax returns, if required to do so under the income tax lawfor three out of five tax years, corresponding to the proposed new physical presence requirement.
Suspended Sentencing Now Prohibited
Current act: Time spent serving a conditional sentence may be counted towards meeting physical presence requirements. Convicted persons serving conditional sentences (sentences served in the community with certain conditions) are not prohibited from obtaining citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship.
Proposed change: Time spent under a conditional sentence cannot be counted towards meeting physical presence requirements; and those serving a conditional sentence are prohibited from obtaining citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship.
Oath of Canadian Citizenship
Current act: Provision prohibiting applicants from taking the oath of citizenship if they have never met or no longer meet the requirements for a grant of citizenship, but does not apply to applications received before June 11, 2015.
Proposed change: The provision prohibiting applicants from taking the oath of citizenship if they have never met or no longer meet the requirements for a grant of citizenship also applies to applications still in progress that were received before June 11, 2015.
New provision to fight against fraud
Current act: No explicit authority for citizenship officers to seize fraudulent documents related to application processing.
Proposed change: Power to seize the documents provided during the administration of the citizenship law if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are fraudulent or used fraudulently.
A welcome return to common sense
“The day C-24 became law in 2014 was a dark day in the history of Canadian immigration law and for Canada itself. It was a huge step backwards and effectively introduced two tiers of citizenship – natural and naturalized – while making the path to citizenship much more complicated than necessary,” said attorney David Cohen.
“It is refreshing to see that the current government has brought forward these proposals, which I predict will become law before too long, so soon after taking office. We are back to a Canadian being a Canadian no matter what. We come back to telling foreign workers and international students that they can land in Canada and think about their long-term future here. We are coming back to seeing Canadian citizenship as a holistic responsibility, rather than something that is so obsessed with the person physically present in Canada.
“Canadians are rightly proud of their citizenship and the status, rights and freedoms it confers. Long may this continue.
For more information on applying for Canadian citizenship in light of proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, please email [email protected] Please include information about your time as a Canadian permanent resident.
Non-permanent residents of Canada can learn more about Canadian citizenship by clicking here.
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