Canada’s liberal government has introduced substantial changes to the Citizenship Act that would make it easier to become a Canadian citizen. The new requirements substantially shift the citizenship pendulum and would give effect to the government’s election platform by repealing controversial modifications brought under the previous Conservative government.
Lowering qualifying requirements
Among the most important changes affecting new Canadians, the proposed bill reduces the time immigrants must spend in Canada to qualify for citizenship. Currently, an individual must physically reside in Canada for four of six years before applying for citizenship with a minimum of 183 days in each of the four years. The new bill would reduce the qualifying period to three in five years and eliminate the 183 day requirement.
The proposed amendments require applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 (reduced from 14 and 64) to demonstrate knowledge in one of Canada’s official languages – English or French and pass a knowledge test.
It restores the 50 per cent credit for temporary residence holders, including foreign students and temporary workers who may count each day of physical presence as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship, with a maximum of one year of credited time.
The proposed changes include the following:
- Applicants must be permanent residents of and physically reside in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years before the date of their application, and repeals requirement that applicants must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of the qualifying years.
- Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements. Applicable criteria will be defined under future regulations.
- Repeals a requirement that adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens.
- Restores consideration of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident (non-PR) for most applicants to a maximum of one year of credited time.
- Reduces the period to three years for adult applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, to be eligible for citizenship.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who served as members of an armed force of a country or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
It is uncertain when the proposed changes will come into force. Further details will be published when they become available, in due course.
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