New reforms reinforce Canadian citizenship and passport value

by Ray Clancy on February 19, 2014

New Canadians should be prepared to take part in the democratic life of the country as well as respect cultural traditions and not see it as a passport of convenience, it is claimed.

A number of new reforms are being introduced to reinforce the value of Canadian citizenship as well as making the whole immigration and citizenship process faster and more efficient.

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Changes are aiming to bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year by 2015/2016

‘Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience. Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history,’ said Citizenship and Immigration minister Chris Alexander.

‘Our government expects new Canadians to take part in the democratic life, economic potential and the rich cultural traditions that are involved in becoming a citizen. We are proud to introduce changes that reinforce the value of citizenship while ensuring the integrity of the immigration system is protected,’ he added.

This will include the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act since 1977. The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act aims to protect the value of Canadian citizenship for those who have it while creating a faster and more efficient process for those applying to get it.

Canada’s citizenship programme will be streamlined. This includes reducing the decision making process from three steps to one. It is expected that, by 2015 to 2016, this change will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year. It is also projected that by 2015 to 2016, the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80%.

Citizenship application fees will rise. Alexander said they will be better aligned with the actual cost of processing, relieving the burden on Canadian taxpayers who currently subsidize 80% of the cost.

The government also aims to ensure citizenship applicants maintain strong ties to Canada. The new act will provide a clearer indication that the residence period to qualify for citizenship in fact requires a physical presence in Canada.

Also, more applicants will now be required to meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test, to ensure that new citizens are better prepared to fully participate in Canadian society. New provisions will also help individuals with strong ties to Canada, such as by automatically extending citizenship to so called ‘Lost Canadians’ who were born before 1947, as well as to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.

The legislation includes stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation with a maximum fine of $100,000 and or five years in prison, and expanding the grounds to bar an application for citizenship to include foreign criminality which will help improve programme integrity.

Alexander also said that the legislation brings Canada in line with other countries, by providing that citizenship can be revoked from dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, and spying offences, or who take up arms against Canada. Permanent residents who commit these acts will be barred from applying for citizenship.

It means that applicants will need to be physically present in Canada for a total of four out of their last six years. In addition, they would need to be physically present in Canada for 183 days per year for at least four of those six years.

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