How Canadian citizenship processes may change in the future

Posted December 26, 2020 at 4:00 a.m. EST



A recent Department of Immigration self-assessment highlights areas where Canadian citizenship processes could be improved.

The report, released in November, revealed findings and recommendations from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on how to address issues with the citizenship program.

Currently, permanent residents can apply for citizenship if they have lived in Canada for at least three years, among other eligibility requirements. Typically, applicants for citizenship must pass a citizenship test or interview and prove their language skills in English or French.

IRCC’s self-assessment covered the period 2013 to 2018, with previous years taken into account. This was done as part of an accountability measure with the Treasury Board, which oversees the funding of federal departments, including IRCC.

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They found that of the more than 2.8 million permanent residents who arrived in Canada between 2005 and 2015, 50% were citizens as of December 31, 2018. Another 7% had applied for citizenship. This should not be confused with Canada’s citizenship rate, or the percentage of permanent residents who become citizens, which was around 86.2% in 2016. Most permanent residents who obtain citizenship are motivated by desire to feel fully Canadian and to make Canada. their permanent home.

Although most permanent residents obtain citizenship status, citizenship rates vary by population. More recent immigrants find a slower rate of citizenship, suggesting that people take longer to become citizens.

Here is an overview of IRCC’s recommendations on how to improve the current citizenship process.

The cost of citizenship should be addressed

Although increases in application fees during the evaluation period did not have a major impact on overall adoption, IRCC noted this to be a barrier for some immigrants. Refugees and low-income families have been particularly affected.

Currently, there is no flexibility regarding the citizenship application fee. They cost around $ 630 for adults and $ 100 for minors under the age of 18.

IRCC wrote that there is a need to re-examine the fee structure to allow fair access to citizenship.

During the 2019 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party promised to remove the citizenship fee. They have yet to keep that promise.

More transparency for knowledge and language exemptions

People who face socio-economic challenges in Canada also face barriers to citizenship with current knowledge and language requirements.

IRCC has found that meeting both of these requirements can be difficult, especially for refugees and people with poor language proficiency and low education. These requirements may be waived for humanitarian reasons, but the parameters are not well defined for these cases. As a result, most exemptions end up being issued on medical advice.

Waivers must be requested by applicants, but the process is difficult to navigate and not well known. Very few waivers were requested during the evaluation period.

Improve the language verification process

IRCC has found that the range of evidence accepted for language verification is very wide and does not always reflect the applicant’s actual language skills. It can be difficult for immigration officers to assess language skills because the tools in place are subjective. Moreover, the agents themselves are not official evaluators.

In light of these findings, IRCC recommended creating a strategy to equip officers to validate language evidence and provide better support to assess language skills as needed.

New approach to the knowledge requirement

The knowledge test and study guide have higher language level requirements than the language test itself. As such, IRCC has found that there is a need for more tools and support for applicants.

IRCC is therefore continuing its plan to implement a new approach to the knowledge requirement. This could include a revised study guide or other tools to improve accessibility of required information.

Promote active engagement in Canadian communities

Immigrants who become citizens tend to have positive integration outcomes. Many feel a sense of belonging to Canada and to their community. They have social ties and have confidence in Canadian institutions. Many have good economic results and participate in voluntary organizations.

These results suggest that permanent residents with stronger feelings of connection to Canada have a greater desire to become Canadian.

There was a difference in employment earnings between citizens and permanent residents, but this was attributable to the socio-economic characteristics of the individual and not to residency status. Volunteering and group membership also varied by people’s socioeconomic status, but citizens were more likely to participate than permanent residents. Permanent residents who did not intend to apply for citizenship were the least likely to engage in these activities.

These types of community engagement are central to the objectives of the citizenship program, however, IRCC has limited mechanisms in place to influence these results. Most of IRCC’s citizenship promotion activities currently focus on newcomers.

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