Last October and November I wrote extensively about the changes that were made to the Citizenship Act by the Liberal government. The most important change came into effect on October 11, 2017, when eligible applicants who had been physically present in Canada to three years could now apply for citizenship. Subsequently Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received than 30,000 new applications in the first two weeks after the changes, more than double what they would have received in each month prior to the change.
However, these were not the last changes and some important changes have come into effect in 2018. These changes include:
1- Change in Citizenship Revocation Process
Those who obtain Canadian citizenship by naturalization may have their citizenship revoked in a number of circumstances.
These include if they obtained their citizenship by:
- a- Making false representations in their application;
- b- Committing fraud (either in your application for permanent residence or citizenship);
- c- Knowingly concealing material circumstances
In addition, Canadian citizenship of those who are either convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying offences, and those who have served as a member of an armed group may also be revoked.
Prior to January 11, 2018, the decision to revoke a person’s citizenship was made by the Minister of Immigration. This was deemed to be unfair by a decision of the Federal Court in May 2017 which struck down the revocation decisions that had been made because they deemed that the process had not been fair.
However, as of January 11th, the process for revoking the citizenship of an individual has changed significantly and individuals whose case is subject to possible revocation have the choice to either have their case heard and decided by the Federal Court, or to request that the Minister of Immigration decide the case.
The Federal Court is an independent judicial body that will be able to hear submissions from the individual as well as the government representative before making a final determination on the revocation of citizenship. This is intended to increase the fairness of the process by giving individuals the opportunity to present their case and defend themselves before an independent decision-maker.
Even in cases where the individual asks for the Minister to decide the case, they still have the option to seek leave to judicially review the Minister’s decision at the Federal Court.
Revocation is an extreme remedy and is usually the final step in the investigation process.
Usually investigations are conducted by the RCMP and the CBSA to determine if there is a basis for revocation. If they find that there is evidence to support a revocation proceeding, the individual will receive notice that revocation proceedings are being commenced.
Revocation of Canadian citizenship is a very serious matter with grave consequences on an individual’s life and future. Depending on the basis for the revocation, the individual may lose his or her citizenship and may also lose his or her permanent residence and face removal from Canada. Even with the added protection of Federal Court proceedings, if a person is facing a revocation of citizenship it is vital to seek legal advice immediately.
2- Changes to Citizenship Applications for Minors
The changes in the Citizenship Act introduced last year allowed minors (those under the age of 18 years) to apply for a grant of citizenship on their own behalf. This made it easier for minors to apply for citizenship on their own behalf rather than having to rely on a parent or guardian to apply for them.
The application fee for minors applying with their parents was $100 but if they were applying by themselves it was $530.
However, there is good news for the minors applying for themselves: as of February 16, 2018, IRCC has reduced the application fee for minors applying by themselves from $530 to $100 to ensure that there is no difference in the fee paid for a grant of citizenship by minors irrespective of the process that they use.
The government has committed to reimbursing the $430 to all applications who applied between June 19, 2017 and February 16, 2018, and will start contacting applicants directly to start the refund process.
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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.