Changes announced to make becoming a Canadian citizen faster and more flexible

by Ray Clancy on February 26, 2016

Becoming a Canadian citizen is to be made faster and more flexible and provisions that resulted in different treatment for dual citizens are to be changed.

Under amendments to the country’s Citizenship Act announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum, the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada before qualifying for citizenship is to be reduced by a year.

McCallum said that it is recognised that immigrants often build an attachment to Canada before becoming permanent residents, so the proposed legislation would credit applicants for the time spent in Canada as temporary residents or protected persons.

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The age range to meet French or English language requirements and pass a knowledge test to qualify for citizenship would change to 18 to 54 from 14 to 64 and McCallum said this supports a goal of removing barriers for immigrants to build successful lives in Canada.

“The Government is keeping its commitment to repeal certain provisions of the Citizenship Act, including those that led to different treatment for dual citizens. Canadian citizens are equal under the law. Whether they were born in Canada or were naturalized in Canada or hold a dual citizenship,” he explained.

The changes would repeal provisions that allow citizenship to be revoked from dual citizens who engage in certain acts against the national interest. All Canadians who commit crimes should face the consequences of their actions through the Canadian justice system, he added.

Since June 2015, adult applicants must declare on their citizenship applications that they intend to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship but McCallum pointed out that the provision created concern among some new Canadians who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada.

“The Government is proposing to repeal this provision. All Canadians are free to move outside Canada. This is a right guaranteed in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he said.

Change would also see the time required to be spent in Canada for citizenship for adults reduced to three years from four years within the five years before applying for citizenship. This will mean applicants can apply one year sooner than they can now. This offers greater flexibility for immigrants who may need to travel outside of Canada for various personal or work reasons.

Currently under the Citizenship Act, people cannot count time they spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident towards meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship.

The changes in the new Bill would let non-permanent resident time count toward the new three year physical presence requirement for citizenship, for up to one year. Under this change, each day that a person is authorized to be in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident could be counted as a half day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship.

The Bill proposes to remove the supplemental physical presence requirement, as keeping it would not allow applicants to benefit from the new non-permanent resident time credit. Applicants would no longer need to be physically present for 183 days in Canada during each of four calendar years that are within the six years immediately before applying for citizenship.

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