Last Updated on September 14, 2020
Prospective Canadian citizenship candidates are calling for the resumption of either online or in-person tests suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.
Candidates are worried the suspension of tests put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 will mean a backlog of cases that significantly delay the process of becoming a Canadian citizen.
The number of people becoming citizens has plummeted since coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March.
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In February – the last month completely unaffected by the pandemic – Canada saw 26,730 people become citizens, compared to just five in April, when the strictest measures were in place.
The numbers have since increased slightly – with 1,656 new citizens in June – but they are still dramatically down on what would be the norm without coronavirus.
In the first six months of 2020, 62,696 people became Canadian citizens, compared to 127,580 in the same period of 2019.
Now candidates are questioning why schools have been allowed to resume lessons, but citizenship tests remain suspended.
They want to see Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) resume tests either online or with physical distancing.
Candidates are keenly aware that the longer the suspension remains in place, the longer they will have to wait for a test date when restrictions are lifted.
The pre-pandemic processing time for an entire citizenship application was around 12 months. The current processing time, and what it could be when full processing eventually resumes, is impossible to predict.
Canada has begun conducting virtual citizenship ceremonies, which resulted in the small uptick in figures seen in June. But citizenship tests, for those further back in the process, are yet to resume.
All tests, re-tests, hearings and interviews have been suspended for six months, since March 14.
Meanwhile, another group of Canadian permanent residents who qualify to become citizens are playing a waiting game over the federal government’s promise to abolish the citizenship fee.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals made a pre-election pledge in 2019 to waive the $630 fee associated with obtaining Canadian citizenship.
Since the pledge was made, the coronavirus crisis has taken grip in Canada, with Ottawa forced to step in and provide financial aid to many who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Now permanent residents are reluctant to file citizenship applications as they wait for news on the Liberal promise to remove the application fee.
The current $630 fee includes a $530 processing fee – increased from $100 under the previous Conservative government – and a further $100 ‘right of citizenship’ fee.
Despite cheaper fees for children, a typical family of four would need to pay $1,460 for their citizenship, provided they met other requirements.
Candidates are required to have been physically present in Canada as permanent residents for three years out of the last five. They must also pass a citizenship test and meet the citizenship language requirement if