This week is Canada Citizenship Week and marks one year since the Bill C-6 came into effect last year introducing important changes in citizenship laws and regulations. So how have these changes been implemented over the past year and what impact has this had on those interested in obtaining Canadian citizenship?
Number of applications
The biggest change that came into effect in October 2017 was the reduction in time that permanent residents had to be physically present in Canada before qualifying for citizenship. The minimum time physically spent in Canada was reduced from 4 out of 6 years to 3 out of 5 years. As a result of this change, the number of applications for Canadian citizenship has doubled from approximately 100,000 in 2016-2017 to more than 240,000 in 2017-2018.
Processing time for citizenship applications
Since the changes in eligibility were introduced Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has maintained that routine applications will be processed within 12 months. Within the first year since the changes came into effect, IRCC estimates that 152,000 permanent residents have obtained citizenship under these new rules and IRCC is trying to maintain its commitment to process applications within 12 months.
Top Tips for New Citizenship Applications
- Verify your dates to ensure eligibility: in order to be eligible for Canadian citizenship you must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days in the past 5 years before you submit your application. You should check your dates based on your passport stamps and airline tickets. If you have travelled extensively to a country that does not stamp your passport you may consider applying for entry-exit records in order to have a completely accurate list of all dates you were absent from Canada. Citizenship officers review all dates thoroughly and I have seen applications refused for being short just one day.
- Check, check and check again: if you prepare your own application you should carefully check your application several times to ensure all questions are answered and that information provided is correct. And if you choose to have a representative prepare your application you should remember that you bear the ultimate responsibility for the information submitted on your behalf and should review your application before you sign the forms.
- Complete supporting documents: by submitting all the required documents, including copies of passports, proof of language ability, police clearances and so on, you will prevent delays in the processing of your application. You should also note that any documents that are not in English need to be officially translated. I advise all applicants that they should carefully review all translations to ensure that all information is correctly translated and avoid costly delays and issues that may arise from incorrect translations.
- Be prepared for your citizenship test: if you are between 18 and 54 you will be required to undertake the citizenship test. The test is a serious matter and you have to get at least 15 out of 20 questions right in order to pass the citizenship test and you should adequately prepare by studying before your citizenship test.
- If you receive a citizenship questionnaire seek assistance immediately: you may receive a citizenship questionnaire requesting additional documents and information after you submit your application. It is important to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer to understand the request and respond in a timely manner with all the information and documents requests.
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.