With the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24, the government made changes to strengthen and restrict the granting of citizenship. These new requirements make it more difficult for permanent residents to qualify to be Canadian citizens.
The key changes that came into force with the final installment on June 11, 2015 include:
Stricter Residency Requirements
- Adult applicants must now be physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days (four years) during the six years before the date of their application, AND they must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of the four calendar years within the qualifying period.
- This is a change from the current residency requirement of accumulating three years of residence within the four years immediately preceding the date of his/her application (1,095 out of 1,460 days). Additionally it will require applicants to be present in Canada for at least 183 days per year in four of the six years.
Expanded language and knowledge testing
- Applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements.
The current age group for basic knowledge and language requirements is 18-54. Under the new changes, the age group has been extended to the younger and older applicants.
Income Tax Filing Requirement
- Applicants will be required to show proof of income tax filings for the qualifying period.
This is a new requirement that did not exist before.
Intent to Reside Requirement
- Adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens.
- the new Act states that the person’s intention must be continuous from the date of his/her application until they take the oath of Citizenship
This is a new requirement that did not exist before. Clients that leaving the country soon after filing a Citizenship application may be construed as a misrepresentation.
Other changes that came into force…
- Individuals with foreign criminal charges and convictions which if convicted in Canada would be an indictable offense (regardless of whether a pardon or amnesty was granted) will no longer be granted citizenship as per the Act. The applicant is barred from applying if the act occurred within the four years from the application date.
Under the old Act, this bar only pertained to applicants who had Canadian criminal charges and convictions which amounted to indictable offenses. And the bar was within three years of the date of application.
- Citizenship provisions to “Lost Canadians” and citizenship will be automatically extended to additional “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947, and did not become citizens on January 1, 1947 when the first Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect. This will also apply to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.
- Greater penalties for fraud
- New authority to designate a regulatory body for citizenship consultants
Only members of the ICCRC, lawyers or notaries (including paralegals and students at law) can be paid to provide citizenship applicants with representation or advice.
- New revocation model and new grounds for revocation of citizenship
The government will be able to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
Under the current process, revocation involved three steps: the Citizenship and Immigration Minister, the Federal Court and the Governor in Council. In the new model, the majority of revocation cases will be decided by the Citizenship and Immigration Minister only.
Those seeking citizenship will need to plan ahead – by ensuring they file their income taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency, be physically present in Canada for at least four years during the six years before the date of their application and be present in Canada for half of the year (183 days) in each of the qualifying four calendar years.
In addition, the government implemented stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation in citizenship applications and has the power to revoke citizenship for dual citizens.