Last Updated on August 26, 2020
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.
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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 aged between 18 and 54.
As ceremonies were cancelled in the early part of the pandemic in Canada, the number of new citizens plummeted in March, April, May and June.
Just five people became Canadian citizenships in April, compared to the 26,730 in February, the last month before coronavirus restrictions took hold.
The latest figures show 1,656 people became citizens in June, as virtual ceremonies gradually increased the numbers, but this is still dramatically down on pre-pandemic numbers, and down on the 20,667 who became citizens in June 2019.
In the first half of 2020, 62,696 people became citizens, with more than 50,000 doing so in January and February, before coronavirus hit Canada.
By comparison, 127,580 became citizens in the first six months of 2019, with more than 250,000 becoming citizens in the year.
It seems highly unlikely Canada will reach a similar figure in 2020, although the abolishment of the citizenship fee could act as an incentive once restrictions are lifted and in-person ceremonies can recommence.