By Zeynab Ziaei – The much anticipated changes to Canada’s Citizenship Act were finalized when Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, received Royal Assent on Monday, June 19, 2017.
This ends more than a year of anticipation since Bill C-6 was first introduced by the Liberal government in February 2016. Canadian Citizenship changed greatly with the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” of 2014 which increased the time applicants had to be in Canada before becoming eligible, introduced the “intent to reside” requirement, required older and younger applicants to submit proof of language and undertake citizenship tests, and allowed for the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens for those convicted of terrorism offences and enabled the Minister to be the decision-maker in revocation of citizenship gained based on alleged fraud.
While some of the changes passed on June 19 will come into effect immediately, the remainder are staggered over the next few months. Some of the most important changes include:
- Changes coming into effect immediately:
- Eliminate the ability to revoke citizenship of dual citizens on national security grounds;
- Eliminate the “intent to reside” requirement so that applicants do not need to state that they intend to live in Canada; and
- Permit minors to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent.
- Changes coming into effect in Fall 2017:
- Applicants must be physically in Canada for 3 out of 5 years before applying for citizenship;
- Applicants no longer required to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in each year;
- Applicants who were temporary residents or protected persons before becoming a permanent resident can get credit for up to 365 days towards meeting the physical presence requirement; and
- Only applicants between 18 and 54 will be required to meet language requirements and undertake citizenship tests.
- Changes expected to come into effect in early 2018:
- The Federal Court shall be the decision maker in all citizenship revocation cases.
These changes abolish “two-tiered” citizenship, as described by the Liberal government, and the government can no longer revoke citizenship on national security grounds from citizens who hold dual citizenship. This brings us back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s famous statement that “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”. Further, citizens who are subject to having their citizenship revoked on the grounds that they obtained it fraudulently shall have a right to appeal any such decision to the Federal Court rather than see the government pursue the revocation process against them and act as the decision-maker as well.
Many newcomers to Canada choose to immigrate here because they would like to become full members of our society. As citizens they obtain all the rights and take on all the responsibilities that come with citizenship. Canadian citizens have the right to vote and stand for office, they are no longer required to meet residency requirements to retain their citizenship, and they can obtain a Canadian passport. Thousands of applicants have been patiently awaiting the announcement of these changes and they can now plan their applications based on these new provisions.
While these changes are expected to make the citizenship process faster overall, when the new physical presence provisions come into effect we can expect to see a big jump in the number of citizenship applications and likely longer wait times. A word of advice to applicants who currently meet the 4 out of 6 years physical presence requirements: apply now!
Note: This information is not intended as legal advice or opinion. You should always seek specialized legal advice with regards to your situation as the facts of each case are unique and the application of law varies in every case.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.