New citizenship applications in Canada are being finalized in a year or less and the current backlog will be eliminated in a few months, officials have confirmed.

The good news comes as a final group of reforms to strengthen and modernize Canada's citizenship laws come into force which are aimed at ensuring that new citizens can fully and quickly participate in Canada's economy and Canadian society.


Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that among the many benefits of the government's citizenship reforms, the new provisions will deter citizens of convenience, those who become citizens for the sake of having a Canadian passport to return to Canada to access taxpayer-funded benefits that come with citizenship status, without having any attachment to Canada, or contributing to the economy.

Changes introduced this month mean that adult applicants must now be physically present in Canada for at least four years during the six years before the date of their application, and they must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of four calendar years within the qualifying period.

Applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements. Alexander said these changes are aimed at ensuring that more new citizens are better prepared for life in Canada and that citizenship applicants develop a strong attachment to the country.

Under the changes, citizenship will be automatically extended to additional so called “lost Canadians” who were born before 1947 and did not become citizens in January of that year when the first Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect. This will also apply to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.

Adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens and meet their personal income tax obligations in order to be eligible for citizenship and Alexander warned that there are now stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation to a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or up to five years in prison. This is aimed at deterring unscrupulous applicants who are prepared to misrepresent themselves, or advise others to do so.

A newly designated regulatory body, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) is responsible for citizenship consultants and only members of the ICCRC, lawyers or notaries can be paid to provide citizenship applicants with representation or advice.

“Our reforms ensure new citizens are better prepared for full participation in Canada's economy and Canadian society. This is a win for newcomers, and a win for Canada in terms of making the most of the opportunities that our fair and generous immigration system provides,” said Alexander.

“We are eliminating long backlogs, and streamlining our own processes. At the same time, we are ensuring Canadian citizenship is highly valued and stays that way. Promise made, promise kept when it comes to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship,” he added.