The rules that govern how and when a person becomes a citizen and can be granted the rights, privileges and duties of a citizen are some of the most important rules that define a society. As of October 11, 2017, the latest changes in Canada’s citizenship rules came into effect governing the process of applying for citizenship and eligibility requirements.
Once you become a citizen of Canada, there are certain rights that protect you and in return you have certain responsibilities towards your fellow citizens. Your rights include: democratic rights such as the right to vote, language rights, equality rights, legal rights, mobility rights, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association. In turn, your responsibilities are to: respect the rights and freedoms of others, obey Canada’s laws, and participate in the democratic process.
The changes in effect as of October 11th make it easier for immigrants who want to apply for citizenship by reducing the length of time you have to be physically present in Canada in order to be eligible and also narrowing the age group for which language results and citizenship tests are required. According to the new rules:
- You must be physically present in Canada for 3 out of the last 5 years with no minimum number of days per year, before applying for citizenship.
- If you have spent time in Canada before becoming a permanent resident (as a temporary resident or protected person) within 5 years before applying for citizenship, you can count each day as ½ days, up to a maximum of 1 year (365 days) towards the minimum physical presence requirement.
- If you are between 18 years old and 54 years old, you must: (a) Meet language (English or French) requirements and (b) Take the Citizenship Test.
- You have to file Canadian income taxes (if required to do so under the Income Tax Act) for 3 out of 5 years, matching the new physical presence requirement.
The knowledge requirement for those between the ages of 18 to 54 means they have to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of English or French, and must also have adequate knowledge of Canada’s history, its geography, its government, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
In addition, in order to be eligible for citizenship you must not be inadmissible for reasons such as criminality or subject of a removal order. Under these circumstances you must seek legal advice to ensure that you are eligible to apply and understand what steps you must take in order to overcome your inadmissibility.
You should also be aware that in some cases it is possible that when you apply for Canadian citizenship you may lose other nationality or citizenship status you may have. Many countries, such as Canada, have no restrictions on dual citizenship. However, some countries such as India do not recognize dual citizenship and acquiring Canadian citizenship can lead to automatic loss of citizenship in that country. It is very important that you check with a lawyer or the embassy of your present nationality to understand if there are any restrictions or additional requirements for dual citizens before you apply for Canadian citizenship.
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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.